What does Azadi mean? We have Chandrasekhar, who reorganized the Hindustan Republican
Association (HRA) into Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA), who voluntarily took
the last name Azad to make the point that he is a freeman not to be tied down by anybody,
including the Government. A democratic country must have resistance against its government
and its policies, for that, the government is given power by the people to work for the welfare of the
people, especially the minorities. Thomas Jefferson once said that “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive.”
In this book, Azadi shows the same. It has all the fire within a person, who wants it better for everyone, and not one particular person or a group. In a series of electrifying, unapologetic, and scathing series
of essays, the author of the “God of small things” and “Ministry of utmost happiness” is displaying what Jefferson asked for. Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the USA, a torchbearer of democracy has been true to the core when he stated that popular resistance has been the pacemaker of democratic reformation even in sovereign democracies, including India.
Azadi is a collection of essays and lectures that Roy wrote and delivered over the time between
2018 and 2020. Starting with the issue of language, which is still a burning topic in the country,
especially after the new education policy was made public, Roy explains why she writes in
English, although she is part Malayali and part Bengali, studied in Kerala and Delhi. She could
write in Malayalam or Hindi, yet she chose English, which, according to many, is a foreign
language. She argues that a writer should not choose to write in a particular language because of
its political importance, she says that she chose English because it was the language that helped
her to express herself most effectively and the argument that English is a foreign language
and should be done away with is impractical as India, as a nation-state, was a British Idea.
English is as good or as bad as the idea of India itself. Writing or speaking in English is just a
practical solution created by British raj. I have to say that I agree with this point. English is a
language that unites India better as it is a language that’s equally alien to every person in the
But when an Indian language, say Hindi or Malayalam is enforced as such, it will be
surely seen as cultural encroachment for every language. The politics of the essay is not only that it is unfortunate for a language to be divided (the Hindi- Urdu division she speaks about) was unfortunate, especially in the name of religion, but it’s criminal to consider Indian origin language as alien. How does using a language hurt religious sentiments (Aligarh municipal corporation issue)?
The book talks about all the issues that are already out there but relates them with historical and
literary aspects. For example, she compares the CAA to the 1936 Nuremberg laws of Hitler. Of
the remaining 8 essays, the one which attracted me the most was the one titled ‘language of
literature’. It talks about how literature can talk about realities without getting the backlashes that
the media gets. She does so by how she portrayed the 2002 Gujarat riots in her book ‘The
ministry of utmost happiness’.
When I started writing this, I thought I had a lot of things to talk about but when I got into the pace, it seemed to me that there is nothing that I can talk about other than asking you to read the book, without being judgmental. That is why I wrote about the first essay and didn’t even mention the rest of them. The catch is that, for a non-biased reader, who is well familiar with contemporary affairs, this book offers nothing but criticism of the Government. For a biased one, maybe a seed to either hail it as the most unapologetic critique of the NDA government or the most offensive book that the person has ever read.
Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction by Arundhati Roy is published by Penguin Hamish Hamilton(2020). To order your copy buy here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arundhati Roy is an Indian writer who is also an activist who focuses on issues related to social justice and economic inequality. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things, and has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays.
For her work as an activist, she received the Cultural Freedom Prize awarded by the Lannan Foundation in 2002._ Goodreads.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Vishnuprasad (He/Him/His) is a 26-year-old law graduate from Kerala who is a voracious reader. An introvert by nature, Vishnu is interested in non-fiction books, especially in history and International Relations. He is a fan of logic and reality but doesn't mind some fiction once in a while. For him, reading is like a conversation with his best buddy. After all, books are the best friends that anyone could ever get.
Reach him out here on Instagram.
All the views about the book, author, and everything else in the article belong solely to the writer.