City Sighting – Arundhati Roy, Around Town
There goes the jazz tune.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi; the above picture, taken in the South Extenson market, is by Pablo Bartholomew]
Is it true that Arundhati Roy live in a barsati in Green Park? One late morning a friend called up saying that she has spotted Arundhati Roy in a café there. She said, “Mayank, I always think of you when I see Arundhati Roy.”
But Arundhati Roy has also been rumored to be living somewhere in Chanakya Puri. A few others have told me that she actually has a writer’s studio near Khan Market with windows opening out to the tombs of Lodhi Garden.
I have walked for hours in all these three places, along with my paperback of The God of Small Things, hoping to catch a sight of her.
But I saw no Arundhati Roy.
I don’t surrender easily. After multiple re-readings of her novel and essays, I have a good idea of Arundhati Roy’s likely hangouts. In fact, it was in Jantar Mantar, on April 4, 2006, when Medha Patkar was on hunger strike that I saw her for the first time in flesh-and-blood.That day I wrote the first blogpost of my life:
“After an hour of sitting, staring, listening, observing and generally feeling awed by the utter simplicity of the scene, I noticed a strikingly beautiful woman, thinly-built, walking into the venue. Wearing an exotic-looking necklace, she looked familiar. She was Arundhati Roy! Dark, radiant, with her curly nest of hair, she threw a tender look at Medha and then sat down with others.
At the other end of the pavement, lunch was being served from a big cauldron. The menu consisted of a porridge-like moong-daal khichdi, the kind which is generally recommended during an upset stomach. The khichdi looked so unappetizing (and unhygienic) that in spite of all my comradely feelings towards the Narmada activists, I did not dare to sit down for this lunch. But Arundhati Roy, refusing a special lunch packet consisting of subzi poori, helped herself with this very same khichdi instead. She then sat down on the footpath and ate the whole thing with seeming relish and even licked the pattal clean with her fingers.”
The next time I met Arundhati Roy was on September 6, 2007. It was during a book launch ceremony at Ambassador Hotel. Khushwant Singh was on the dais. I was busy clicking his picture when a friend, who had come to dunk down free wine, pointed out to a corner. Arundhati Roy! In white saree and pink bouse, she looked like the Rahel of The God of Small Things.
“Her wild hair was tied back to look straight though it wasn’t. A tiny diamond gleamed in one nostril. She had absurdly beautiful collarbones and a nice athletic run.”
I asked her, “Mam, I know it’s not good manners but can I click your picture.” She smiled and nodded. My tipsy friend too clicked a picture of me with her. I looked like a Dracula but it did not matter.
Dracula in vicinity
An independent mobile republic
On February 13, 2008, I saw Arundhati Roy in Press Club of India. She had come to demand Indian citizenship for the controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen. There were other eminences around but I was bewitched by my author and my camera lens did not lose its focus.
With fellow writer Mahashweta Devi
In support of Taslima Nasreen
On April 11, 2008, I spotted Arundhati Roy in a most unexpected place. At around 10 pm, I was coming out after doing my haziree to the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin when I saw her in the bustee bylane. I had a feeling that she recognized me but…how can that be possible?
A chance encounter in Hazrat Nizamuddin Bustee
On April 26, 2008, I managed to smuggle an invitation to the launch of her new book The Shape of the Beast – Conversations with Arundhati Roy. At 7 pm, I reached the Olive restaurant at Hotel Diplomat, in Sardar Patel Marg, and there she was surrounded by important people of the town. I stayed there for an hour and followed her as she walked from one group of guests to another.
She did not notice me.
Soon I started feeling lonely and so I walked out and walked for a long time, from Malcha Marg to Shanti Path to Moti Bagh, till I got so exhausted that I stopped feeling lonely.
Arundhati Roy, the bestselling author
On the morning of 8th May, 2008, I got an e-mail from Mr. Savad Rahman, the sub-editor of Madhyamam Daily, a Kochi-based newspaper:
like you i’m also a fan of ARUNDHATI ROY
she is now in kottayam,kerala her home town
here with attaching two photos took by our fotographer
ARUNDHATI ROY purchasing ginger from a hacker
photo by dileep purakkal
The girl from Kottayam
Oh, I’m feeling home-sick for Kottayam.
In love with Arundhati Roy