Arundhati Roy irritates me: her tone, her smugness, her careless use of history -- specifically, her stringing of disparate events/places/phenomena as if they all amounted to the same old same old (e.g. lumping together the Indian annexation of Hyderabad as part of the country's "colonialis[t]" course, bizarre given the old order displaced by the annexation was an absolute monarchy hijacked by religious revivalists in its twilight, an old order diametrically opposed to the sort of peasant insurgency one would expect Roy to be sympathetic to -- were the Indian state not on the "other" side of the argument, that is) -- her sloppy and oft-expressed views that the Indian polity is no more than an "upper caste Hindu state", are annoying not only in themselves, but because they mar the force of her arguments, on issues that are so crucial one can ill afford to slip up.
But. But. But. For the courage to talk about what (at least when it comes to what can only be called a civil war in Central India) is barely touched upon by other writers in English, and rarely without resort to the empty platitudes of those who use language not to think about the problem, but to avoid thinking about problems; and for the courage -- and this is perhaps hardest for a writer, even unknowns and aspiring writers, let alone famous ones -- to not pander to her audience, to be unafraid of being misunderstood; everything Roy writes on the plight of the Indian polity's ultimate expendables (far more so than any religious minorities, far more so than even Dalits), namely the "tribal" populations, cannot be missed.
Her latest dispatch from the front-lines is in this week's Outlook.
[MARCH 31, 2010 UPDATE: Here's a clip of Roy reading from her essay (thanks sepoy!)