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Author: Swarnakumari Debi
Translator(s): Rajul Sogani / Indira Gupta
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195665023
The Uprooted Vine is the translation of Swarnakumari Debi’s Bengali social novel Snehalata ba Palita (1892), which was brought out serially in Bharati between 1889 and 1891. In this novel, the author takes up the cause of the victims of the Hindu patriarchal system and the joint family who were deprived of their rights, exploited as domestic drudges, and marginalized to the extent of being denied shelter and maintenance.
The protagonist, Snehalata, an orphan and child widow, is driven to suicide by the callous behaviour of her own and her husband’s family. Her husband’s widowed aunt is turned out of the joint family to prevent her from claiming a share of the family property. Her sister-in-law dies prematurely, a victim of harassment and neglect. These women are united by a strong bond of sympathy as fellow sufferers under patriarchal oppression and represent feminine solidarity against familial tyranny. On the other hand, Swarnakumari Debi also uncovers the complicity of women in upholding patriarchy and exploiting it to oppress weaker individuals. She treats with gentle irony the conflict between the generations, between traditional attitudes and personal aspirations, and between colonial powers and the spirit of nationalism among the educated youth. She provides an intimate glimpse of life within the home where women engage themselves in domestic activities, rituals, pastimes, and power struggles to maintain their hold in the family.
The novel presents an authentic picture of middle-class life in nineteenth-century Bengal and makes a strong plea for women’s education and empowerment. It will appeal to general readers of fiction and to all those in the fields of Indian literature, women’s writing, Indian social history, and gender studies.
The Uprooted Vine is an exploration of gender and familial relationships in the changing society of nineteenth-century Bengal. It focuses on the vulnerable position of the child widow, Snehalata, dependent on the charity of her relatives, whose struggle for survival and dignity is repeatedly compromised by her lack of personal independence.
As an orphan, her guardian Jagat Babu is unable to shield her from his domineering wife. As a young bride and widow, she has to face the hostility of her in-laws who wish to deprive her of her rightful share in the family property. Even Jiban, her husband’s cousin, who adores her and gives her shelter in his house, is unable to save her from the ultimate tragedy.
Snehalata’s suicide is an outcry against the treatment she has received from her family and from Charu, her beloved friend, for whose sake she went into involuntary exile.
RAJUL SOGANI is reader in English at Laxmibai College, University of Delhi.
INDIRA GUPTA has been a lecturer in English at Agra University.
The Uprooted Vine