Saturday Fare

Book Review

Roots and Shadows

Shashi Deshpande

With the evolution of Indian English writing, new developments have surfaced in terms of ideas and writing style that have begun sprouting, one after another. Writing in India also took a bounce, in fact, leaps. Shashi Deshpande, a prolific and insightful writer, in her most succeeding and ultimate novel Roots and Shadows (1983) demonstrated the journey of its rebel protagonist, “Indu”. She portrayed a true picture of society, family and the outlook of the people. Many sensitive issues have been discussed by the writer here. Indu, who is portrayed as a well-established journalist, had lost her mother during her birth. She was barely 15 days old when Anant Kaka took her home. Since then, Atya looked after her as a mother, but her father was serious and attentive towards anyone. Her father had a (societal/ caste) rule-breaking love marriage, as her mother was a non-Brahmin. Nobody in the family preferred her. Casteism is a big issue in our country and that is what Shashi Deshpande has shown here. Atya, whose dislike pops out one day as she told Indu that she always wanted her mother to be alive for her father at least, somehow was trying to cope up with the true picture despite of her frustration. Akka, whom India addressed, metaphorically, as “ruthless, dominating, bigoted and inconsiderate” is shown here a rude and dominating character, whose behavior forced Indu to abandon home after 18 years of spending her life there.
In this story, a woman character plays a key role, and she is the narrator too. She narrates her life story; experience within and out of the family; her struggles in marriage; and career. She is well-educated, intelligent and a rebel. Somehow, she gets a chance to avail a respite from her jam-packed schedule and that too after ten years. She heads to her old family. Hers was a large and joint family, but she never felt like it was her own due to the behavior of the people and family circumstances. The element of “huge joint family” incorporated in the story adds to different flavours of life and presents various colours of experiences. She stayed for good eighteen years before leaving her family. She got good education, work and a husband of her choice. But what gave her a broader and changed outlook was her education that liberated her from many taboos, superstitions, conservative, & traditional ways. She becomes independent. How much “independence” matters for a woman in real life, we all are aware.
She left the home to have her own life all by herself, but somehow she found herself unfit in every role, and doesn’t become successful, which further leads to a quest of finding “female identity”. And, this lands her in an extramarital affair. She marries a non-brahmin and to hide the distance of her relation with her husband, she creates illicit terms. Hence, extra marital becomes an easy way of escaping the reality of marriage.
Shashi Deshpande’s style and pattern of writing is very smooth and it helps in gradually unfolding the plots and climaxes. This shows her versatility as a writer. Additionally, she weaves the characters really well with the plot, while creating the characters themselves with a clear shaping. And, her way of narrating the story of each character is flawless. The “Roots and Shadows” novel was conferred with the ThirumathiRangammal prize in the best English novel category in 1982-83.
Publisher: Sangam Books Ltd
Available on: Amazon India Price: Rs 144 (Paperback)