Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy

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Rating: 4.3/5

Author: Arundhati Roy

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Publishing Date: 2009

Language: English

Genre: Non-Fiction

ISBN-10: 0143419293

ISBN-13: 978-0143419297

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Cost: Rs. 161.50 (Kindle edition), Rs. 150 (Paperback), Rs. 249 (Hardcover)

Plot:

‘What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning?’

Combining brilliant political insight and razor-sharp prose, ‘Listening to Grasshoppers’ is the essential new book from Arundhati Roy. In these essays, she takes a hard look at the underbelly of the world’s largest democracy, and shows how the journey that Hindu Nationalism and neo-liberal economic reforms began together in the early 1990s is unravelling in dangerous ways.

Beginning with the state-backed killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, she writes about how ‘progress’ and genocide have historically gone hand in hand; about the murky investigations into the 2001 attack on Indian Parliament; about the dangers of an increasingly powerful and entirely unaccountable judiciary; and about the collusion between large corporations, the government and the mainstream media.

The collection ends with an account of the August 2008 uprising in Kashmir and an analysis of the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai. ‘The Briefing’, included as an appendix, is a fictional text that brings together many of the issues central to the collection.

Review:

Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes On Democracy by Arundhati Roy, is a collection of essays written on India's democracy and the bitter truth associated with it. Roy questions readers about what the end result of democracy will be. She feels that only the upper 10 percent of society enjoy a democracy, while the rest are subdued to surviving through their same poverty stricken lives.

She questions the old Hindu philosophies of nationalism, which opposed colonial rule and voiced for freedom for all. The author talks about how they are just policies now, with no implementation. Although the economic liberalization of India allowed for equal taxes for all, the rich hardly pay any taxes compared to the massive wealth they amass. India does not seem to be having real economic growth and is staggering towards a massive influx of unemployment.

Roy brings out the harsh realities of life in India, like the treacherous killing of Muslims in Gujarat. She talks about how power is in the grasp of a few select rich companies, while the masses are neglected. The author highlights the dark side of democracy in this book.

Roy readily admits that she is over-wrought about where Indian society is headed: “I’m screaming from the bloody rooftops. The Gujarat riots in 2002, Kashmir under brutal military occupation and economic policies have driven millions to the brink of starvation.”

As for last November’s Mumbai attacks, she says: “What we’re experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet is squelching under our feet.”

Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes On Democracy gives readers a jolt by asking them to think for themselves, whether India is truly a democratic nation. Roy talks about how grasshoppers visiting a village are a bad omen and how it can be seen in democratic India's policy making.

About the Author:

Arundhati Roy was born in 1960 in Kerala, India. She studied architecture at the Delhi School of Architecture and worked as a production designer. She has written two screenplays including Electric Moon (1992) that was commissioned by Channel 4 television.

Her first novel ‘God of small things’ won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997. An immediate bestseller, the novel was published simultaneously in 16 languages and 19 countries but caused controversy in India for the description of a love affair between a Syrian Christian and a Hindu 'untouchable'. She is also the author of several non-fiction books including: The Cost of Living (1999) - a highly critical attack on the Indian government for its handling of the controversial Narmada Valley dam project and for its nuclear testing programme; Power Politics (2001)- a book of essays; and The Algebra of Infinite Justice- a collection of journalism. The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire was published in 2004. She has since published a further collection of essays examining the dark side of democracy in contemporary India ‘Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy’ (2009).

Her latest book is ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ (2017), her second novel. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and, in the US, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. For her work as an activist she received the Cultural Freedom Prize awarded by the Lannan Foundation in 2002.


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