By Tej N Dhar
Resident Dormitus, Vikas Rathi; Rupa and Co, Pp 196 (PB), Rs 195
Resident Dormitus is about a young man Achet who attends a business school so that he can earn money and recognition. When he goes to Mumbai for his first job in a company, he meets new people, including Dev, who smokes weed, and explains to him how the numbness resulting from it can be put in “cryogenic preservation” in times of need, and calls it resident dormitus. Much later, when he is blamed by his friends for his death, one of them allows him a chance to tell them the truth, which becomes the excuse for narrating events in the novel. These are about Achet’s training in India, Singapore, and Malaysia. In India, he is drawn towards Dev, who is into drinking and smoking, for keeping himself cool. Because he takes to his ways, Achet is late to sessions and loses his laptop, which gets him into trouble with the police. He has to pay a bribe of five thousand rupees to earn his safety.
In Singapore, Achet’s official meetings are full of “mass intellectual masturbation”; his evenings and nights are crowded with drinking parties, sexual escapades, and discussions on serious issues: such as the purpose of life, the importance of choices, the education system of India, the new morality, and the “high handed corporate uppity league.” In spite of his growing cynicism, he manages to stay on in the system.
In Malaysia, he acquires a sense of discrimination and discipline, but he continues to be bothered by his lazy streak; in one such moment, he goes about aimlessly, plays poker, and loses his car. When he returns to his flat in Mumbai, he finds that Dev has reached the dead end of life and slit his wrist. Because he lets him talk and die, he feels like a murderer.
Rathi’s handling of Achet’s search for his true vocation and meaning in life has an edge of artificiality to it, which dilutes its effectiveness.
(Rupa & Co, Darya Ganj, New Delhi -110 002)