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Under The Nuclear Shadow
by Saima Alvi
03 June 2002 16:53 UTC
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Under The Nuclear Shadow by Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy of India is the author of the acclaimed novel 'The God of 
Small Things' (Harper-Perennial, 1997). Her non-fiction books are The Cost 
of Living (Modern Library, 1999) and Power Politics (South End Press, 
2001). She is a leading anti-war and anti-corporate globalization activist. 
This commentary was first broadcast on Radio 4's Today program in the UK.

This week as diplomats' families and tourists quickly disappeared, 
journalists from Europe and America arrived in droves. Most of them stay at 
the Imperial Hotel in Delhi. Many of them call me. Why are you still here, 
they ask, why haven't you left the city? Isn't nuclear war a real 
possibility? It is, but where shall I go? If I go away and everything and 
every one, every friend, every tree, every home, every dog, squirrel and 
bird that I have known and loved is incinerated, how shall I live on? Who 
shall I love, and who will love me back? Which society will welcome me and 
allow me to be the hooligan I am, here, at home? 

We've decided we're all staying. We've huddled together, we realize how 
much we love each other and we think what a shame it would be to die now. 
Life's normal, only because the macabre has become normal. While we wait 
for rain, for football, for justice, on TV the old generals and the eager 
boy anchors talk of first strike and second strike capability, as though 
they're discussing a family board game. My friends and I discuss Prophecy, 
the film of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the dead bodies choking 
the river, the living stripped of their skin and hair, we remember 
especially the man who just melted into the steps of the building and we 
imagine ourselves like that, as stains on staircases. 

My husband's writing a book about trees. He has a section on how figs are 
pollinated, each fig by its own specialized fig wasp. There are nearly 
1,000 different species of fig wasps. All the fig wasps will be nuked, and 
my husband and his book. 

A dear friend, who is an activist in the anti-dam movement in the Narmanda 
Valley, is on indefinite hunger strike. Today is the twelfth day of her 
fast. She and the others fasting with her are weakening quickly. They are 
protesting because the government is bulldozing schools, felling forests, 
uprooting hand pumps, forcing people from their villages. What an act of 
faith and hope. But to a government comfortable with the notion of a wasted 
world, what's a wasted value? 

Terrorists have the power to trigger a nuclear war. Non-violence is treated 
with contempt. Displacement, dispossession, starvation, poverty, disease, 
these are all just funny comic strip items now. Meanwhile, emissaries of 
the coalition against terror come and go preaching restraint. Tony Blair 
arrives to preach peace -- and on the side, to sell weapons to both India 
and Pakistan. The last question every visiting journalist always asks me: 
Are you writing another book? 

That question mocks me. Another book? Right now when it looks as though all 
the music, the art, the architecture, the literature, the whole of human 
civilization means nothing to the monsters who run the world. What kind of 
book should I write? For now, just for now, for just a while pointlessness 
is my biggest enemy. That's what nuclear bombs do, whether they're used or 
not. They violate everything that is humane, they alter the meaning of 

Why do we tolerate them? Why do we tolerate the men who use nuclear weapons 
to blackmail the entire human race? 

POSTED from www.zmag.org

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