Arundhati Roy

The secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again.

Arundhati Roy (born 24 November 1961) is an Indian writer and social activist



  • If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is Man's challenge to God. It's worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that You have created. If you're not religious, then look at it this way. This world of ours is 4 600 000 000 years old. It could end in an afternoon.
    • The End of Imagination August, 1998 [1].
  • Power is fortified not just by what it destroys, but also by what it creates. Not just by what it takes, but also by what it gives. And powerlessness reaffirmed not just by the helplessness of those who have lost, but also by the gratitude of those who have (or think they have) gained.
    • The Greater Common Good May, 1999 [2].
  • India lives in her villages, we are told in every other sanctimonious public speech, That's bullshit. India doesn't live in her villages. India dies in her villages. India gets kicked around in her villages. India lives in her cities. India's villages just live only to serve her cities. Her villages are her citizen's vassals and for that reason must be controlled and kept alive, but only just.
    • The Greater Common Good May, 1999 [3].
  • Big Dams are to a nation's 'development' what nuclear bombs are to its military arsenal. They're both weapons of mass destruction. They're both weapons governments use to control their own people. Both twentieth-century emblems that mark a point in time when human intelligence has outstripped its own instinct for survival. They're both malignant indications of a civilization turning upon itself. They represent the severing of the link, not just the link -- the understanding-- between human beings and the planet they live on. They scramble the intelligence that connects eggs to hens, milk to cows, food to forests, water to rivers, air to life, and the earth to human existence.
    • The Greater Common Good May, 1999 [4].
  • The story of the Narmada valley is nothing less than the story of Modern India. Like the tiger in the Belgrade zoo during the NATO bombing, we've begun to eat our own limbs. **Preface to The Cost of Living July 1999.
  • The trouble is that once America goes off to war, it can't very well return without having fought one. If it doesn't find its enemy, for the sake of the enraged folks back home, it will have to manufacture one. Once war begins, it will develop a momentum, a logic and a justification of its own, and we'll lose sight of why it's being fought in the first place.
    • The Algebra of Infinite Justice September 29, (2001) [5].
  • People rarely win wars, governments rarely lose them. People get killed.
    • Why America must stop the war now (23 October 2001) [6].

The God of Small Things (1997)Edit

These are only a few samples, for more from this work, see the page for The God of Small Things
  • A Novel:
  • The story of the tragic decline of an Indian family whose members suffer the terrible consequences of forbidden love, The God of Small Things is set in the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India.
  • In those early amorphous years of life, when memory had only just begun, when life was full of Beginnings and no Ends, and everything was Forever ...
  • … the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don't surprise you with the unforeseen.. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end yet you listen as though you don't. In the way that you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won't. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic. ...
  • Her own grief grieved her. His devastated her. (On Sophie Mol's death, describing Mamachi's grief, and Chacko's).
  • Ammu explained to Estha and Rahel that people always loved best what they Identified most with.
    • (page 98).
  • They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.
  • Kochu Maria watched with her cake-crumbs.
    The Fond Smiles watched Fondly.
    Little Girls Playing.
    One beach-coloured.
    One brown.
    One Loved.
    One Loved a Little Less.
    • (page 186).
  • Ammu had an elaborate Calcutta wedding. Later, looking back on the day, Ammu realized that the slightest feverish glitter in her bridegroom's eyes had not been love, or even excitement at the prospect of carnal bliss, but approximately eight large pegs of whiskey. Straight. Neat.
  • Humbling was a nice word, Rahel thought. Humbling along without a care in the world.
  • She wondered what had caused the bald pilgrims to vomit so uniformly, and whether they had vomited together in a single, well-orchestrated heave (to music perhaps, to the rhythm of a bus bhajan), or separately, one at a time.
  • 'Ammu,' Chacko said, his voice steady and deliberately casual, 'is it at all possible for you to prevent your washed-up cynicism from completely colouring everything?'
    Silence filled the car like a saturated sponge. Washed-up cut like a knife through a small thing. The sun shone with a shuddering sigh. This was the trouble with families. Like invidious doctors, they knew just where it hurt.
  • It didn't matter that the story had begun, because kathakali discovered long ago that the secrets of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones that you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't decieve you with thrills and trick endings. They don't surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don't. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won't. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't. And yet you want to know again.
    That is their mystery and their magic.
    • (page 229).
  • To the Kathakali Man these stories are his children and his childhood. He has grown up within them. They are the house he was raised in, the meadows he played in. They are his windows and his way of seeing. So when he tells a story, he handles it as he would a child of his own. He teases it. He punishes it. He sends it up like a bubble. He wrestles it to the ground and lets it go again. He laughs at it because he loves it. He can fly you across whole worlds in minutes, he can stop for hours to examine a wilting leaf. Or play with a sleeping monkey's tail. He can turn effortlessly from the carnage of war into the felicity of a woman washing her hair in a mountain stream. From the crafty ebullience of a rakshasa with a new idea into a gossipy Malayali with a scandal to spread. From the sensuousness of a woman with a baby at her breast into the seductive mischief of Krishna's smile. He can reveal the nugget of sorrow that happiness contains. The hidden fish of shame in a sea of glory.
    He tells stories of the gods, but his yarn is spun from the ungodly, human heart.
    The Kathakali Man is the most beautiful of men. Because his body is his soul. His only instrument. From the age of three he has been planed and polished, pared down, harnessed wholly to the task of story-telling. He has magic in him, this man within the painted mark and swirling skirts.
    But these days he has become unviable. Unfeasible. Condemned goods. His children deride him. They long to be everything that he is not. He has watched them grow up to become clerks and bus conductors. Class IV non-gazetted officers. With unions of their own.
    But he himself, left dangling somewhere between heaven and earth, cannot do what they do. He cannot slide down the aisles of buses, counting change and selling tickets. He cannot answer bells that summon him. He cannot stoop behind trays of tea and Marie biscuits.
    In despair he turns to tourism. He enters the market. He hawks the only thing he owns. The stories that his body can tell.
    He becomes a Regional Flavour.
    • (page 230-1).
  • He is Karna, whom the world has abandoned. Karna Alone. Condemned goods. A prince raised in poverty. Born to die unfairly, unarmed and alone at the hands of his brother. Majestic in his complete despair. Praying on the banks of the Ganga. Stoned out of his skull.
    Then Kunti appeared. She too was a man, but a man grown soft and womanly, a man with breasts, from doing female parts for years. Her movements were fluid. Full of women. Kunti, too, was stoned. High on the same shared joints. She had come to tell Karna a story.
    Karna inclined his beautiful head and listened.
    Red-eyed, Kunti danced for him. She told him of a young woman who had been granted a boon. A secret mantra that she could use to choose a lover from among the gods. Of how, with the imprudence of youth, the woman decided to test it to see if it really worked. How she stood alone in an empty field, turned her face to the heavens and recited the mantra. The words had scarcely left her foolish lips, Kunti said, when Surya, the God of Day, appeared before her. The young woman, bewitched by the beauty of the shimmering young god, gave herself to him. Nine months later she bore him a son. The baby was born sheathed in light, with gold earrings in his ears and a gold breastplate on his chest, engraved with the emblem of the sun.
    The young mother loved her first-born son deeply, Kunti said, but she was unmarried and couldn't keep him. She put him in a reed basket and cast him away in a river. The child was found downriver by Adhirata, a charioteer. And named Karna.
    Karna looked up to Kunti. Who was she? Who was my mother? Tell me where she is. Take me to her.
    Kunti bowed her head. She's here, she said. Standing before you.
    Karna's elation and anger at the revelation. His dance of confusion and despair. Where were you, he asked her, when I needed you the most? Did you ever hold me in your arms? Did you feed me? Did you ever look for me? Did you wonder where I might be?
    In reply Kunti took the regal face in her hands, green the face, red the eyes, and kissed him on his brow. Karna shuddered in delight. A warrior reduced to infancy. The ecstasy of that kiss. He dispatched it to the ends of his body. To his toes. His fingertips. His lovely mother's kiss. Did you know how much I missed you? Rahel could see it coursing through his veins, as clearly as an egg travelling down an ostrich's neck.
    A travelling kiss whose journey was cut short by dismay when Karna realised that his mother had revealed herself to him only to secure the safety of her five other, more beloved sons - the Pandavas - poised on the brink of their epic battle with their one hundred cousins. It is them that Kunti sought to protect by announcing to Karna that she was his mother. She had a promise to extract.
    She invoked the Love Laws.
    • (pages 232-3).
  • He watched her. He took his time.
    Had he known that he was about to enter a tunnel whose only egress was his own annihilation, would he have turned away?
    Perhaps not.
    Who can tell?
  • Thirty-one.
    Not old.
    Not young.
    But a viable die-able age.
  • He stepped onto the path that led through the swamp to the History House.
    He left no ripples in the water.
    No footprints on the shore.
    He held his mundu spread above his head to dry. The wind lifted it like a sail. He was suddenly happy.Things will get worse, he thought to himself. Then better. He was walking swiftly now, towards the Heart of Darkness. As lonely as a wolf.
    The God of Loss.
    The God of Small Things.
    Naked but for his nail varnish.


  • Where there is oppression, it will always be challenged by those of us who will challenge it with greater intensity, you know? So that's why I don't believe that there can ever be peace without justice, you know? The two go together. And there cannot be peace in the world with full-spectrum dominance or, you know, nuclear warfare or any of those things. They won't help, because always there will be people who demand dignity, who demand justice, who demand their rights.
    • From an interview with Andrew Denton on Enough Rope screened 18th October 2004 on ABC Australia [7]


  • "Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead."
  • "What does the term "anti-American" mean? Does it mean you are anti-jazz? Or that you're opposed to freedom of speech? That you don't delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean that you don't admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans?"
  • There is only one dream worth live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead.
  • Literature is the opposite of a nuclear bomb.
  • … To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget. ...
    • From the book "The cost of living".
  • "What does peace mean in a world in which the combined wealth of the world's 587 billionaires exceeds the combined gross domestic product of the world's 135 poorest countries? Or when rich countries that pay farm subsidies of a billion dollars a day, try and force poor countries to drop their subsidies? What does peace mean to people in occupied Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and Chechnya? Or to the aboriginal people of Australia? Or the Ogoni of Nigeria? Or the Kurds in Turkey? Or the Dalits and Adivasis of India?What does peace mean to non-muslims in Islamic countries, or to women in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? What does it mean to the millions who are being uprooted from their lands by dams and development projects? What does peace mean to the poor who are being actively robbed of their resources and for whom everyday life is a grim battle for water, shelter, survival and, above all, some semblance of dignity? For them, peace is war."
    • A selection from a speech entitled "Peace given on November 7, 2004 while accepting the Sydney Peace Prize.
  • "Another world is not only possible, she's on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe."
  • The tradition of "turkey pardoning" in the US is a wonderful allegory for new racism. Every year, the National Turkey Federation presents the US president with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Every year, in a show of ceremonial magnanimity, the president spares that particular bird (and eats another one). After receiving the presidential pardon, the Chosen One is sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia to live out its natural life. The rest of the 50 million turkeys raised for Thanksgiving are slaughtered and eaten on Thanksgiving Day. ConAgra Foods, the company that has won the Presidential Turkey contract, says it trains the lucky birds to be sociable, to interact with dignitaries, school children and the press.

    That's how new racism in the corporate era works. A few carefully bred turkeys - the local elites of various countries, a community of wealthy immigrants, investment bankers, the occasional Colin Powell, or Condoleezza Rice, some singers, some writers (like myself) - are given absolution and a pass to Frying Pan Park.
    The remaining millions lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, have their water and electricity connections cut, and die of AIDS. Basically, they're for the pot. But the fortunate fowls in Frying Pan Park are doing fine. Some of them even work for the IMF and the World Trade Organisation - so who can accuse those organisations of being anti-turkey? Some serve as board members on the Turkey Choosing Committee - so who can say that turkeys are against Thanksgiving? They participate in it! Who can say the poor are anti-corporate globalisation? There's a stampede to get into Frying Pan Park. So what if most perish on the way?
  • The invasion of Iraq will surely go down in history as one of the most cowardly wars ever fought. It was a war in which a band of rich nations, armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over, rounded on a poor nation, falsely accused it of having nuclear weapons, used the United Nations to force it to disarm, then invaded it, occupied it, and are now in the process of selling it.
    • From a speech accepting the Sydney Peace Prize, November 07, 2004 [8]
  • It's not a real choice. It's an apparent choice. Like choosing a brand of detergent. Whether you buy Ivory Snow or Tide, they're both owned by Proctor & Gamble This doesn't mean that one takes a position that is without nuance, that [...] the Democrats and Republicans are the same. Of course, they're not. Neither are Tide and Ivory Snow. Tide has oxy-boosting and Ivory Snow is a gentle cleanser."
    • On the American election, 2004 from her speech in San Francisco, California on August 16th, 2004 [9]

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