Roots of Power and Resistance: An Allegorical Reading of Syed Waliullah’s Lal Shalu and Tree Without Roots
Munasir Kamal and Soumya Sarker
Abstract: This paper traces the sources of power that Majeed, the protagonist of Syed Waliullah’s Tree Without Roots (1967), manipulates to claim his influential position in Mahabbatpur – a fictional village in the then East Pakistan. Tree without Roots is Waliullah’s own transcreation of his novel Lal Shalu (1948). While “lal shalu” literally means “red cloth,” the significant change in the title of the transcreation – with its recurrent use of images of roots, rootlessness and uprooting – reflects the author’s added emphasis on Majeed’s obsession with power. Exploiting social and cultural elements, such as religion, superstition, gender inequality and class structure, Majeed creates an atmosphere of fear to rule over Mahabbatpur. He becomes economically and socially powerful, for a time dominating the entire village with his narrative before any hint of resistance. This paper comparatively analyses the original novel and its transcreation, examining the works in the context of the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, a division based on religion – the chief of source of Majeed’s power. The paper interprets Majeed’s vulnerability and eventual downfall as an allegory of the futility of separate nation states based on religion.
Keywords: Transcreation, Partition, Power-knowledge, National Education Policy, Patriarchy and Resistance
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Published in September 2020