Books

The Sleepwalker’s Dream

Original_mg404-buktitle-sleepwalkers-dream-borah
Md. Imteyaz Alam
mimteyaz@gmail.com

Book: The Sleepwalker’s Dream
Authori: Dhrubajyoti Borah
Price: 350, Pages: 272
ISBN 9789386050014, Year: 2016
“I’ve begun moving mechanically like a zombie, like a sleepwalker. And everything appears to be like a bad dream…nothing but a sleepwalker’s dream.”

The Sleepwalker’s Dream is the first novel in English language by the prolific Assamese writer Dhrubjyoti Borah. He is one of the eminent writers of Assamese language who has received several awards, most notably Sahitya Akademy, a prestigious literary award of India. A practising medical doctor, Borah deftly deals with psychology of individuals and groups. Many shades of human persona are finely depicted by the author. Loyalty and treachery, cooperation and suspicion, discipline and defiance, love and lust are part of the nature of human beings and the same is displayed in this remarkable work of fiction.

Through the novel, the readers peep into Bhutan’s beautiful valley of lush green forest. The readers travel through tortuous terrain, the inclement weather, high mountains and deep gorges. One gets acquainted with the climate and topography of the region. The novel also showcases birds and animals of this Himalayan country.

The sleepwalker’s dream is a political novel on Bangladeshi immigrant issue. It is a story of a group of insurgents brought together by a quirk of fate. Most of the members fall into a trap as raging fire swallows up all combustible material in its vicinity. “A little strip of silicon - a SIM card issued in the name of June, the lone female member of rebel group, lands her in the underground movement. Similar is the story of other members of the banned group.

The Assemese insurgents’ camp in Bhutan comes under attack. Some members of the group flee for safety, carrying the injured leader along with them. Their only aim is to survive. Miraculously, they reach a cave guided by the leader where they find food and other items stored for such contingency.

Once the group reaches the cave, cut off from rest of the world, there come challenges of survival. The psychological and philosophical questions of life and death emerge. Human desire and emotions come to the fore. Maintaining sanity at the time of uncertainty and hardship is a big challenge. The novel brilliantly depicts the character of June. Her endurance and spirit are remarkable. She asserts gender equally even at a time of crisis. She works on sentry duty and goes out of the cave to do hard work like other male members. She however, is trapped in this quagmire by just a quirk of fate. Still she remains spirited and helps others to survive. Her nursing helps the leader recover. June also acts as a bridge between informal groups that emerges in the main group. Human being’s ability to innovate and survive is brilliantly illustrated. This novel is a remarkable piece on the role of leadership in creating discipline and integrity among a team even at the height of crisis. The leader dispels the gloom and hopelessness prevailing over group. Even while being heavily injured, the leader plays the role of a savior.

The novel portrays an underground movement’s failure to resolve political issues through armed struggle. The misery and hardship the underground movement brings are vividly depicted in this work of fiction. “Probably the time has come when we have to work openly within the democratic set-up of the country .….It possibly cannot be avoided. We now have to find out how to do this”, the leader of the underground movement concedes before his death. The disillusioned insurgent group finally disbands to join the mainstream.

The language of the novel is lucid and easy to read. It can be finished in two or three sessions. This is a must read for those interested in armed struggle and insurgency going on around the world. The novel will be useful to understand the psychology of insurgents and underground movements.   

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2016 on page no. 21

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