Title: Displaced Roots
Author: Partha Pratim Paul
Publisher: Evincepub Publishing
Reviewed By: Tasnima Yasmin
Another addition to partition literature, Displaced Roots is a moving and heart touching tale of love, loss and language set against the backdrop of the Bengal partition. The book deals sensitively and closely with the manner in which two families are separated and their ties are severed as they come face to face with the politics of partition that rendered the Bengal province into two halves. The story is poignant, tear jerking and passionately conveyed. It conveys the political cost of partition that divided the people who were living side by side and fuelled sectarian violence and political partisanship while forcing people to take sides in order to save themselves.
The plot begins with the efforts put into seeking refuge across the newly set borders in order to protect oneself and one’s family or loved ones from the political turmoil and violence unleashed in a matter of moments upon commoners who have little to do with the larger politics of partition but bear the brunt of separation, segregation and discrimination to the extent of physical assault and not to forget its implied psychological trauma. Through the eyes of the characters, the plot goes back in time and gives a detailed explanation of the Bengal partition and the formation of Bangladesh as it came to be, the events that led to its creation and the issues that cropped up as a result of its creation. This is a significant section of the plot as it not only allows the reader to understand the myriad impressions that fell on Bengal but also educate, sensitise and highlight the importance of Bengal and Bengalis in the freedom struggle of India. The plot goes into the past and comes back to the present several times in order to situate the characters and help decipher their emotions and motives which explain the reasons behind their actions. This affects the pace of the plot that is dynamic and undergoes changes in order to accommodate the incidents that unfold. This has a mixed effect on the reader who is made to focus on certain sections through slowing down of the pace while the quickening of the pace of the plot in other sections leads to the creation of a fast- moving narrative that renders the reader capable of understanding the deep- seated impact of the partition. It shows the manner in which lives are uprooted from their places of long- term residence and they get displaced from the place they called home.
This creates in them an alienated feeling of being separated from their sense of belonging. It increases their gypsy like behaviour in which the characters struggle to come to terms with their new place of residence or call it their new home.
While the plot revolves around two families, it also lays special emphasis on some characters like Narendra and Dhirendra whose sides of the story are focused upon to explain the impact of partition on them. These characters are not just individuals who have to go through the ordeal of partition but are also archetypes for all individuals who have been through the partition of Bengal. This is not only because such individuals were displaced and lost a lot that cannot be counted materialistically but also because they become examples of all the real people who went through the partition of Bengal with complete confusion and horror at the manner in which events unfolded. The characters in this sense are all rounded ones and with each chapter of the plot, these characters show their various sides. They are at once resilient, strong and brave and again broken, hurt and shattered at their fate. The tone of the narrative is a neutral and balanced one. It is sensitive towards the people and all that they face but it is neither overly sympathetic nor utterly understated in its disclosing the horrors of the characters. Striking of this balance is the key to simplifying a difficult topic like partition that has a political angle, has many players and has many who are affected in different proportions. This is the beauty of the narrative. It does not exaggerate and it does not undermine. At the same time, it is not a boring narration of factual events which lack human angle. It balances all the aspects with ease and it is this effortlessness which holds the attention of the reader and keeps them asking for more. Though mostly, narrated in the third person omniscient narrative voice, but all throughout the narrative is interspersed with dialogues that add to the understanding the characters better and making more sense of the events and incidents from the perspective of the characters who are deeply affected. This increases the affiliation and relatability with the characters who are set in a distant past. It also foregrounds the issue of the partition of Bengal to sensitise and allow people to acquaint themselves with the kind of loss suffered not just for the characters in the plot but also the real people who went through it all.
The writing style is easy to follow. The narrative is well written, gripping and provides room for detailed analysis and discussion surrounding the impact of Bengal partition. The vocabulary sustains the narrative well. It is neither too tough nor too plain and simple. The book cover is rather attractive for a sad story like the Bengal partition. On the whole, the novel is a good read for students of history, historical fiction lovers and just generally anyone who may be interested in partition literature.