So @arundhati_roy is no more. Today a Twitter campaign is afoot asking @Twitter how come twitter.com/Arundhati_Roy was suspended. The answer is simple. It was suspended because the account was set up and operated by someone other than the famous writer. A New York City based-graphic artist has claimed she was the one tweeting in Roy’s name and as she herself put it “I wish @arundhati_roy was coming back, too…but being too much like her is misleading apparently…”
I don’t remember exactly when the Twitter account in the novelist’s name began transmitting but when I started following her she had less than 50 followers. She surprised me with how adept she seemed to be at manipulating the medium for I had always imagined that Roy might be somewhat hostile to new technologies, considering her sustained and caustic critique of the exigencies of market capitalism.
After all wasn’t it she, in the astoundingly successful God of Small Things, who had lamented the Procrustean packaging of Kathakali, Kerala’s epic performance artform, into byte-sized morsels that tourists could fit into their schedules?
In the evenings (for that Regional Flavor) the tourists were treated to truncated kathakali performances (`Small attention spans,” the Hotel People explained to the dancers). So ancient stories were collapsed and amputated. Six-hour classics were slashed to twenty-minute cameos.
But there was something about @arundhati_roy’s tweets that made me certain this was the writer herself. I actually quoted her tweets in 3 different posts. Her bio read: I’m bored with globalisation. You can see it in my face. I, alone, am Moral, lest, Moral-Less, More or Less. Amor, alas… It was her way with words, her verbal economy, her taut, tart wit that I imagined I recognized; it made me write the following, now eminently cringeworthy, paragraph:
People seemed to doubt that it was really her but i didn’t need persuading, I recognized her voice immediately. “Flags are bits of coloured cloth that governments use to first, shrink wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.” “Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.” And something i profoundly agree with her on: “Democracy is the biggest scam in the world.” Last week Thursday Roy only had 75 or so followers, today its 905. Let’s see how many more she attracts by the time she really gets going.
That was in April. By the time the account was suspended in August it had approximately 9000 followers.
I wanted to get 10k…then I was going to quit it and say, Up yours, @KanchanGupta. I don’t even know who he is, but he’s just been an ass, @JonBenetRamsey told me via Twitter’s direct message (DM) feature saying that she, or the person behind her pseudonym (Twitter bio: If you love me *twirl* with me. No pageantry here. Just high fashion sheeit *smacks ass and stomps away* *twirl* and *wink*), was the one who had operated the account. She DM-ed me after my post ‘A Voice for the Voiceless’: @Arundhati_Roy vs Arundhati Roy was published.
In the days leading up to the account’s suspension @KanchanGupta (editor of North Indian newspaper The Pioneer) had been ferocious: @Arundhati_Roy Pakistan wants you. Pakistan needs you. Won’t you rise to the occasion and buy a one-way ticket to the promised land? Another tweeter who relentlessly hounded @arundhati_roy was @Shonatwits.
Funnily enough it was one of @arundhati_roy’s tweets featuring Kanchan Gupta that had previously persuaded me that this was actually the writer Arundhati Roy. Months ago the crusty editor had engaged in an exchange of tweets with @arundhati_roy that sounded positively flirtatious by the end of it. There was talk of meeting up for drinks with @Arundhati_Roy purring We must. You look like a dark liquor on the rocks kind of man…
It was her, i thought, she’s trying to disarm her critics; for no one could have been a harsher and more dismissive anti-Roy voice than Kanchan Gupta. And here he was seemingly eating out of her hands. I was filled with admiration.
“She’s a fake,” urged the sensible voice of Bombay-based @rimeswithcya, “though she does have a sense of humour”. How do you know i asked? One of her tweets was a quote from Bono, she replied.
Well, @rimeswithcya was right. When i eventually got to interrogate @arundhati_roy’s author about some of the mystifying non sequiturs she tweeted in the waning days of the account she admitted: I made a habit of quoting pop/rock songs in the final stages of that account…What Roy writes I see in America, where I live. I’m in NYC…
So, thank you for all your kind words about @Arundhati_Roy…She was truly my finest creation…*twirl* said @JonBenetRamsey when i first heard directly from her via Twitter. Her trademark aside–*twirl*–is an ironic reference to the modelling career of the precocious American child beauty queen, Jon Benet Ramsey, brutally murdered at her Colorado home in 1996.
I asked her to tell me more about why she chose @Arundhati_Roy as her Twitter handle. I have read everything by Arundhati Roy…She’s fantastic. But when I started the account, I wanted to make it more of a tribute… When the initial hate mail came in, it was a little unexpected. I was kind of alarmed, and didn’t know how to respond, except obviously… But, yes, I did quote U2 Sunday, Bloody Sunday. It was genius. And thanks for saying I was good at being Roy’s twitterer. I honestly thought she wouldn’t mind, to be honest. And I refused to say anything too off the mark.
Twitter just suspended the account. It was pretty clear I wasn’t her & she probably had a lawyer communicate impersonation. It’s upsetting. It’s interesting bc I was gonna do inspirational quotes, but I discovered a perspective that alarmed me, & the accnt became an experiment. The Naxal Movement is new to me for the most part.
I particularly like watching her on YouTube. She’s beautiful and intelligent. And generous. And a little haughty. Thus the bio line.
I asked @JonBenetRamsey about the mysterious image she had tweeted the link to one day. Was it tiny children’s toys on a chapati? an appam? a dosa? as various tweeters had speculated at the time?
…the image is of a family farm in Pakistan after the flood…So sad… I saw the image, and I wanted to just put it out there. We got such a reaction to Haiti’s earthquake, but this ended up having three times more damage…but where were the televised charities and such? Nothing here, really. Just more anti-Muslim rhetoric…which sickens me…
How did she manage to get the tone so right so often, i asked.
If i wanted to reply to someone, and sound accurate, i would refurbish a quote from her. Because she’s always very consistent. Easy, too… I love Arundhati Roy. I don’t think people understand how she thinks because people aren’t ready to admit their own privileges happen to…..exist at the expense of another person, or group of people. That’s why she said that the American way of life is unsustainable……and that way of life, democracy, is becoming synonymous with so many terms, including capitalism and sometimes christian……It’s a new way of waging war & creating empires…by allying yourself with like nations…and that’s why some injustices go unreported…
…She’s very consistent. And I can usually apply things she’s written about, say, Palestine to the Maoist conflict. I mean, ultimately…that dialogue is going to be an even more religiously based conversation between the indian public and the media. Anti-Muslim rhetoric… Have you read The Family? It’s amazing, I suggest it. It’s about evangelical Christianity and American Democracy…
I asked if the hostile tweets that came pouring in were responses to @arundhati_roy’s tweets or to the real life position and actions of the Indian writer and activist (see here for some of these tweets). Roy’s engagement with Maoists and Pakistan, which she visited in 2009, have earned her the wrath of quite a few Indians.
The hostile comments I received were usually responses to things people had heard about her, whether from the news or other bloggers……I always received things like, “What if your mother was on that train the Maoists bombed?” or something similar, and I’d routinely be……villified. People weren’t ever satisfied. Why are you worrying about Pakistan when this happened in Kashmir? She had to point out……every wrong, or she seemed like a fake activist. & that’s a lot of responsibility 2 put on 1 person, who isn’t even into policy making…
Did she feel a sense of loss at losing the account so suddenly? Did she have an account in her own name as well?
…And I don’t feel loss really for the account. I never suspected it’d get suspended, tho. It was an experiment in language. I loved it. i also have a twitter account in my own name…it’s kept private…few private details…@JonBenetRamsey is my release…Since I’m like a little girl…
*Twirl* i could almost add…
Well, there you have it, @arundhati_roy was certainly a fake, but the most empathetic, persuasive fake you could come across, a fascinating character in her own right. The woman who operated the account seemed to be performing Arundhati Roy, channeling her even. And I for one miss her tweets.
Immediately below are three tweets in which she quoted song lyrics along with info on the songs themselves. They’re great songs, I enjoyed listening to them, especially Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights…
I am in love with what we are, and not what we “should” be. And I am. I am starstruck with every part of this whole story.
Adorable illusion and I cannot hide.
I’m the one you’re using, please don’t push me aside.
Blondie (Heart of Glass)
Bad dreams in the night, they told me I was going to lose the fight. Leave behind my wuthering heights
Kate Bush (Wuthering Heights)
When I feel like I don’t belong, draw the strength from the words when you said, Hey, It’s about you, baby. Look deeper inside you, baby
Janet Jackson, (Together Again)
Since posting this @jonbenetramsey has informed me that she’s a guy. ok, this is entirely my fault, I leapt to the conclusion that the account holder was a woman–social conditioning? myopia? who knows why?–and never actually posed that question. I like that you think i’m a girl. lols. he tweeted after reading my post. To my chagrined response he tweeted the following:
Lol…I’m a gay man…But a young one. That’s why I think the flirtation between me and Kanchan Gupta was hilarious…he’s so Brokeback…
What can i say? Everyday i learn a hundred new things through Twitter! Highly recommend, it’s the twenty-first century version of a free education.