Power Politics, by Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy, author of the novel The God of Small Things, is an activist as well as a writer. In this collection of essays published in 2001, Roy bestows her vast knowledge about the many problems that have come of contemporary India’s struggle toward rapid development with casual wit and a healthy dose of sarcasm. Whether it’s the takeover of U.S.-funded energy companies, the power of the written word and the role of writers in a country with soaring rates of illiteracy, or the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people by the Sardar Sarovar Dam project, Roy is at ease playing offense.
The “modernization” of India has not effected all Indians equally. In fact, most of the country’s population still live in extreme poverty and might as well be worlds away from the small elite that benefits from the country’s development. What Roy sees is not one country at all, but “two Indias” completely at the mercy of an all encompassing tech-divide. She’s highly critical of so-called “experts”, whose particularized knowledge is unfairly deemed superior to all other forms of knowing–like experiential–and I really appreciate that.
Her writing is catchy, but a little unfocused at times. If I let my mind wander even the slightest, I’d find myself lost. And the two essays about 9/11 and America’s War on Terror were good, but did feel dated. At this point, you’ve read them, even if you haven’t read them. Many times. It makes me wonder about the rest, for which I have very little personal context within which to determine their relevancy as I know so little about India. In any case, these essays are an interesting window into India and global power relations…at least as they existed at the turn of the twenty first century.
I haven’t been particularly blown away by either The God of Small Things or Power Politics, but I have enjoyed them both, would recommend them, and look forward to reading more of Roy’s work.