Apropos Arundhati Roy’s essay Capitalism: A Growth Story (Mar 26), the future of capitalism is not as bleak as she would have us believe. This is because its main competitor, Communism, has done no good to the people who reposed their faith in it. Ms Roy is welcome to her fascination with the latter but the fact is that it has not worked and is on its way out almost everywhere. The only good that’s come of it is that it has forced capitalism to reform itself. True, capitalism is based on greed and moderating that greed is a serious challenge. But Gandhism rather than Marxism would help more in this endeavour. The captains of capitalism need to lead and act from the front.
Deepak Seth, on e-mail
Arundhati Roy is one of the very few media crusaders who haven’t sold their soul to the corporate devil.
A 10,343-word essay on capitalism and development cannot really make a layperson reflect critically, unless it’s written cogently without overgeneralisation and poetry and neatly structured with titled sections to guide the reader on where the essay is headed. Seems the Outlook editorial team decided to rest on the author’s laurels and let this one slip. Her essay could have come across as more nuanced had Arundhati not just underlined the pernicious power of transnational capital pervasive in all spheres of modern societies from India to South Africa to America, but also endeavoured to acknowledge and respect societal changes in power dynamics between hitherto marginalised groups, the more privileged classes and state institutions as a result of socio-economic development in a Third World milieu.
Ranjana Ramachandran, Chennai
I receive my latest copy of Outlook, open the envelope, shudder in horror, sweat lightly, have my BP running high and low, feel weak mentally, disoriented physically. Why, you ask? I see Arundhati Roy on the cover. Despite the fact that Outlook has a new editor, it hasn’t changed its old habits.
R.K. Ravindra, on e-mail
Lakme is owned and operated by Hindustan Unilever. It used to belong to the Tatas.
Very sharp, Ms Roy. Excellent stuff. The US and Europe are in dire straits. Not just that, the Occidental kleptocratic mass murderers are losing their grip on the populations of the West. In America especially, there is a real chance for real change. The whole system is a swindle and I am so happy to have read such an eloquent critique. People might want to take a look at the documentary, Thrive: What on Earth will it take?.
Rene deGroot, Amsterdam
I find Ms Roy to be a bit of a princess—and too shrill by far. But she more or less hits the shiny little nail right upon its shiny little bald head.
David Wilson, Toronto
Someone must explain why people escape from communist countries to ones ruled by capitalist pigs. Why is there no traffic in the opposite direction if what Arundhati says is true?
Amit, Tucson, US
While Arundhati talks about the horrors of capitalism, she has forgotten about the horrors of socialism around the world. Even Communist China has dumped the idea of state ownership. In fact, the financial crisis of 2008 and its exacerbation is also a function of government intervention. A freer country with less government and less state intervention is the only path to prosperity.
Sonam Agrawal, Bangalore
Like all post-modern rhetoric, this piece is all fizz and directionless. What these so-called revolutionaries practise is actually a masquerade of the ‘Brahminical politics’. The article’s portrayal of invincible, self-destructive capitalism only reflects its author’s brand of ‘fatalistic’ politics.
Phew. Verbal diahorrea along with intellectual constipation!
K. Vijayaraghavan, Chennai
What a colossal waste of 22 pages of admittedly high-class prose, which once again gets reduced to nothing more than the ranting of a disgruntled soul. By now, there does not seem to be anything under the sun that Ms Roy does not smell a ‘sinister design’ in.
Bhavna Mohan, New Delhi
Having trashed corporates, capitalists, economists, government, media, ngos, computers, think-tanks, databases, Bill Gates, Nandan Nilekani et al, how does Arundhati propose to save the poor from poverty?
I don’t think Arundhati has to provide a clear-cut solution. That’s not her job. Her essay is well-researched and well-written; it’s meant to provoke, educate, inform and awaken. Those who seek solutions from her should ask themselves what solutions they can think of.
Nishant Pratap, on e-mail
Self-proclaimed intellectuals like Arundhati operate as double parasites: they feed on the blood of the rich and live on the sores of the poor.
Swapnil Kothari, on e-mail
Yaawn, can someone explain to me in a “few words” what this piece is all about?
Subba Rao, Dallas
I am willing to pay Arundhati not to write any more.
Shammi Kapoor, on e-mail
I think a lot of Outlook staffers took a vacation. No wonder you had to fill up the pages with Arundhati Roy.
Ganesan, New Jersey
Arundhati Roy’s perception of a ‘caste mechanism’ in the political and social fabric of India is skewed due to her misconceptions about its content and evolution during the past 60 years. Neither Ambedkar nor S.A. Dange is responsible for the opportunistic engineering of caste politics in India.
C. Koshy John, Pune
I can write a bigger and better essay called Communism: A Gone Story. Gimme a chance.
Vaibhav Shrivastava, Calcutta
Whether you agree with her or not, Arundhati’s writings always manage to convey a sense of engagement with issues most journalists, let alone fiction writers, shy away from. She deserves respect for consistently exhorting readers not to follow the in-fashion narrative. It cannot be a writer’s mandate to offer solutions or churn out fiction that conforms to standards of thought that some deem appropriate.
Santosh John Samuel, Kochi
In a country with free speech rights, why cannot a person speak her mind? Doesn’t she have a right to talk about her country’s problems? Bury your heads in the sands, my friends, but don’t shoot those who raise their heads to take a look around them.
Ananya Bhattacharya, Bethesda, US
Are Arundhati’s rants worth a cover story? The Ambanis are not thieves, and they have a right to build themselves whatever sort of house they want. And who forces her to buy Tata Tea or whatever? She could choose the Wagh Bakri brand if she wanted to avoid the Tatas! To rubbish capitalism is too big a leap in conclusion that Roy is making. Do we have to go back to the time when we had to wait for years to get even a telephone connection?
Rajesh Chary, Mumbai
Ordinary mortals like me usually avoid commenting on Roy-bahadur. But one has to admit she has a way with the pen. A few comments, though: a) Surprisingly, she didn’t beat up the middle class; b) There was no breast-beating over Hindutva, though Narendra Modi was mentioned; c) I wonder if it was fair to Mohammed Yunus to say, without statistics, that people who chose his schemes have been dying.
Santosh Gairola, Hsinchu
In each page she criticises corporations and their greed, the adjoining page carries ads by the same greedy companies.
Madhuraj V., on e-mail
Arundhati says if the “100 great capitalists” of India were hypothetically removed, we’d be as poor as Sudan. But that may prove true of many nations, including the US.
B.V. Gopal Rao, Warangal
The only solution to the problems Ms Roy mentions is Anarchism. It does not mean chaos or the violent overthrow of the state. Rather, it is the least involvement of state and corporate power in people’s lives.
Fahad Ahmed, Hyderabad
Let me summarise Arundhati’s article: “Being proud of India is evil. The Indian middle class is evil. Hinduism is evil. Upper-caste Hindus are evil. Capitalism is evil. Business is evil. The US is evil. Consuming what capitalism produces is evil.”
No political system offers hope of justice to the poor. The role of citizens’ groups that challenge governments and political systems—such as the campaign led by Anna Hazare—must be seen in that light.
Narendra M. Apte, Pune
The one statement by Arundhati that left me impressed was: “Tidal waves of money crash through the institutions of democracy—the courts, Parliament as well as the media, seriously compromising their ability to function the way they are meant to.” Is the omission of bureaucrats an oversight? Love her or hate her, you can’t ignore Arundhati. She should be prescribed reading for the complacent and fatalistic.
Maj P.M. Ravindran (retd), Palakkad
Any system of governance is good if applied and executed truthfully, efficiently and without corruption. India’s problem is corruption and inefficiency, with the ruling party to blame in most cases.
Paramvir Sawhney, Gurgaon
Instead of rehashing rants borrowed from western socialists, Arundhati should focus on the quality of governance in India. It is still politicians who are powerful, and it is they who are to blame for India’s evils, not capitalism per se.
Dipto, on e-mail
Looking at the mirror is good—one sees oneself, warts and all. Arundhati has held up a mirror to us.
Manish Banerjee, Calcutta
Is there no saving grace to liberalisation then?
Girish Vaithilingan, on e-mail
Of course pieces like Arundhati’s are meant to irritate our sense of well-being. Seeing the very structure of our world falling apart, it’s natural for us ‘shining Indians’ to react in this antagonistic way.
Ananyo Mukherjee, Siliguri
Arundhati’s articles have lately become a show of her angst and emotions rather than attempts to educate the reader. She tends to repeat herself, beating round the bush rather than moving forward.
Sukanya Sarkar, Chennai
Kudos to Outlook for publishing Arundhati Roy, especially when, as she says, most of the electronic and print media are now owned by huge multinational corporates. And now that the cag has brought out a new report indicating irregularities in the auctions of coal blocks, perhaps people will start taking her more seriously.
Ramesh Kumar, Mumbai
All the talk about how India’s greedy and arrogant businessmen, in cahoots with the government, are undermining every institution in this country is, unfortunately, very true. Even if it comes from Arundhati.
G. Natrajan, Hyderabad
People like Arundhati lead seven-star lives, yet have the gall to write on the condition of the poor.
S.S. Nagaraj, Bangalore
Arundhati is as guilty as all the people she condemns.
Ramachandran Natarajan, on e-mail
Unless things change real fast, Arundhati Roy will be made irrelevant. She’ll be just one voice among the angry, unheeding millions. Ms Roy isn’t the publicity-seeking dramabaaz that she is made out to be; she’s our very own Cassandra.
Paresh, Rolla, US
Another rich, nuanced article by Arundhati. Instead of ranting at her, it’d be good to step back and introspect on how the definition of democracy has morphed along capitalist lines.
Siddharth, Boston, US
By linking every problem India faces to capitalism, Arundhati can blame the majority of India’s population.
Lakshmi Narasimhan, Chennai
Good piece. Shows the other side of the capitalism coin.
K. Nithyan, Denver
K. Narasimhaswamy, Bangalore
The only grouse of Arundhati’s that I found valid was on Antilla. But here too the blame lies more with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation than the Ambanis for allowing such a large-scale, uber-lavish dwelling to be constructed for a family of just six members!
Ramesh T., on e-mail
Antilla throws up a multitude of ironies depending on which part of Mumbai you are looking at it from. The most obvious is the contrast with Mumbai’s slums. But equally striking would be if you were to see it from the Navy Nagar beach in Colaba. At the end of that land strip is the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, set up by Homi Bhabha with generous funding from J.R.D. Tata. JRD could have built an Antilla in Bombay, but instead preferred setting up institutes like TIS, TERI, IISC et al. Corporates of today end up managing even philanthropy in a profitable way, directly or indirectly. Arundhati Roy’s tone may be acerbic and prescriptive, but after 25 years of liberalisation and crony capitalism, the time is ripe to see where the Indian system is headed for.
Vinu Nair, New Delhi
It is no coincidence that Ms Roy chose Antilla as the epitome of evil. That it belongs to India’s richest man suffices. And when demonising and accusing becomes the defining theme of one’s life, what better than a structure of brick and mortar, however grotesque, to mount a venomous diatribe on capitalism.
K.K. Raja, Bangalore
Reporting on its housewarming party in November 2010, a Mumbai-based socialite-cum-pulp fiction writer breathlessly described Antilla as “the Taj Mahal of the 21st century”. Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan must have turned in their graves at the mausoleum. However, given Arundhati’s views, she could well brand the Taj Mahal as a symbol of medieval capitalism. Even if it be that, at least it is supremely aesthetic. Not so Antilla, which is a permanent eyesore scarring the skyline of Mumbai, and which resembles a monkey wrench.
Ramesh Ramachandra, Bangalore
Arundhati’s piece reminded me of Waseem Barelvi’s couplet: Banenge oonchey makaanon mein baith kar naqshe/Toh apne hisse main mitti ka ghar na aayega.
Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi
The Ambanis’ house is a brazen display of wealth acquired through not so transparent means. American capitalists, big or small, contribute a lot to society through charity and by building schools, colleges, hospitals et al. They don’t cheat the government by fudging accounts, avoiding taxes and reneging on payments to provident fund accounts of their employees.
Arun R., Bangalore