Roots was sent to me by my dear sister who in turn was given this book by her friend Mukta. Just as it happens with every book that knocks at the doors of my existence, it stood outside for a long time before I opened the door.
Roots is one of those books that change your perspective of how you treat life and people, although I firmly believe that every kind of book possesses this monumental ability. That’s why I cannot read books piecemeal; they affect me a lot. There are a very few books that I have read, and almost every book has left its imprints upon my consciousness.
I wouldn’t call Roots a "literary experience"; it’s a journey, it’s a part of life that you spend with people struggling to survive through inhumanity, injustice, and existential void. It’s a story about how you sustain the warmth of life in the icy caverns of hopelessness so that even if individuals perish, generations survive. After having a child, I know what this means.
Roots is a story of a Mandinka warrior named Kunta Kinte from the Gambia, Africa, who is captured by slave traders, shipped to America under the most base conditions you can imagine as a human being, and then sold to further, interminable sufferings. His jungle instinct makes him run again and again and every time he is captured until his hope begins to fade like a twilight star. You can really feel the crushing of the soul. Here’s a human being full of dreams, knowledge and plans. He is sensitive, religious and philosophical. He has great plans for himself, his family and his village. He is healthy and strong and a trained warrior. And then he is captured, kept like a rat in a sewage wallowing in his own excreta and vomit and disease, beaten again and again, and chained in such a manner that he cannot even lie straight. Once bought, he is kept tied to a poll outside the house like a dog.
Slaves were kept like animals and in fact, worse than animals. Their white captors hated them with great severity. They were not supposed to have human feelings and needs. If you were a slave, total surrender was expected of you and even that too was considered your duty. You were to feel thankful if you were not beaten and humiliated even if you were loyal to your master. People were sold just like chicken. Your husband, wife, parent, sibling, child, friend, could be sold away any day and you could do nothing about it. Sometimes children were auctioned even before they were born. Anything could be done to your loved ones in front of your eyes and you could not intervene because if you did, your master could punish you in whatever way he wanted to, according to the law. Baffling? For the American whites it was as normal as eating chicken.
So under these conditions Kunta Kinte survives and gives rise to this epic story spanning many generations.