Sunday, May 11, 2008

Photo Essay – Arundhati Roy Sightings

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Photo Essay – Arundhati Roy Sightings

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

Arundhati Roy -II

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Arundhati Roy - I

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

Mahashweta Devi & Arundhati Roy

In support of Taslima Nasreen

Photo Essay – Arundhati Roy Sightings

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 can that be possible?

A chance encounter in Hazrat Nizamuddin Bustee

Arundhati Roy Sighting

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

Arundhati Roy Sighting

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:

hi soofi
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

Arundhati Roy Sighting

Oh, I’m feeling home-sick for Kottayam.

In love with Arundhati Roy

January 1st, 2008 - Letter from The Delhi Walla


Thomas Kappler said...

Hey Mayank, the post is funny and moving at the same time. However, one important question: did you ask for permission to publish all these pics on the net? Otherwise, I'd say that's not ok...

Best, Thomas

VK said...


saltandsaffron said...

As someone who was lucky enough to visit her at her home I can tell you this that Ms. Roy lives in Chankyapuri.

Shaheen Sultan Dhanji said...

Great photo essay, Mayank!

Power Politics -- one of her books, comprising of several of her essays is an absolute brilliant works of Ms.Roy. I salute her for her commitment for social justice.

Best wishes,

Manavi Bakshi said...


Why didn't you have enough guts to approach her and get an interview of her? You obssess endlessly about Roy now do something. Get the interview and not titbits of where she goes and what she does. Seems you're stalking poor woman. (just Kidding). Good fotos.

Manavi Bakshi

m a v e r | c k said...

aptly put, I was jus reading that book by her.... :]
There goes a jazz tune.... ♫♫♫

Saifuddin said...

Hey Soofi,
Is that the only book you read? Or is it stylish to walk around giving out impression? Bro, you're funny dude.

Neyaz A. Farooquee said...

hey buddy...u r arundhati's too but not as big as u. i heard her for the first time in my university on aug 25, she was there for a lecture against special arms force act and the next time i spotted her when recently she visited the 'unfortunate site' in batla house. this time i did talk to her but i did not ask for a pose becuase she was there for a different cause and i tried to be shameless but couldnt sum up the courage like u. Later on i clicked some but then i was a bit late cause a huge rush has arrived and simply i couldnt reach anywhere near her. But whatever I observed n clicked in two spottings i've blogged it. u must read it.

Anonymous said...

Bhai someone please tell me her exact address,I want to question her for her negative comments against 26/11.And if she still makes anti-india comments.We ABVP will paint her face black,and pass the clipping to media.Regards Naveen singh Nagar,ABVP,Delhi

Anonymous said...

I landed here quite randomly but really, really enjoyed this. I love Arundhati -- she's Beauty personified, in every sense. So this was a real treat. Your post is very sweet and touching. Thanks a lot!