I guess there is a particular period in everyone’s life when she reads more than ever before and ever after. For me that time was my late teens in the 1970s. It’s a period that stays etched in my memory and everything associated with that period has acquired a halcyon hue.
It’s a different matter that almost all of the retained memories are reconstructed, and did not really unfold the way I remember them.
I remember Noorsultan Daruwala. She must be close to 50 now. For me she’ll always be the 16-year-old school girl. I never did meet her ever in my life after we left school, which I think is the way it should be, or maybe not. Every time I think of her, I have this melting feeling in my heart that is similar to having a Ferreror Rocher chocolate – it melts in your mouth just when you want it to last a bit longer. Sigh!
And I remember reading Alex Haley’s Roots. The novel was fiction, of course, but Haley had done tremendous research on the subject of his ancestry and termed the book faction (mix of fiction and facts). Many years later, Haley was involved in a law suit where Harold Courlander alleged that many sections of Roots were plagiarized from his The African. Haley settled out of court, and admitted to being inspired by Courlander’s book.
It is impossible not to be moved to tears when you read all that Kunta Kinte, the main protagonist, has to experience. Some descriptions from the book stay with the reader forever. The gruesome conditions on the ships that transport the Africans from their homeland to the new world have a sort of mesmerizing effect on the reader. The ‘smell’ of the White kidnappers in the African jungles; the quiet dignity with which the slaves rebuild their lives; ‘Chicken George;’ all made for riveting reading.
It was a true epic that gives the reader an unrelenting story of the unbelievably horrible treatment of the African slaves by the United States. It is an eloquent introduction to one of America’s most sordid chapters that has only partially been remedied with the election of Barrack Obama as the president of the United States.