Book Review – The Sleepwalker’s dream

Book Review – The Sleepwalker’s dream



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 first novel in English language by prolific Assamese writer Dhrubjyoti Borah. He is one of the eminent writers of Assamese language who received several award most notably Sahitya academy, a prestigious literary award of India.

Dhrubjyoti Borah

Being a practicing medical doctor Borah deftly deals with psychology of individual and group. Many shades of human persona are finely depicted by the author. Loyalty and treachery, Cooperation and suspicion, discipline and defiance, love and lust are 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. It is a story of group of insurgents brought together by quirk of fate. Most of the members fell into the trap as the raging fire swallows up combustible material in its vicinity. “A little strip of silicon” – a SIM card issued in the name of June, lone female member of rebel group, lands her in the underground movement. Similar is the story of other members of the contraband group.

The Assemese insurgents’ camp in Bhutan comes under attack.  Some members of the group flee away for safety carrying 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 comes challenge for survival. The psychological and philosophical question of life and death emerges. The human desire and emotions comes to the fore. Maintaining sanity at the time of uncertainty and hardship is big challenge.

The novel brilliantly depicts the character of June, the lone woman in the group. Her endurance and spirit stands apart. She asserts for equality among gender 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 quirk of fate still she remains spirited and helps others to survive. Her nursing helps the leader improve his health. 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 remarkable piece on 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. The leader plays role of saviour though heavily injured.

The novel portrays underground movement’s failure to resolve the political issue 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 underground movement concedes before his death. The disillusioned insurgent group finally disbands to join the mainstream.

The language of novel is lucid and easy read which 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.

[ Imteyaz Alam is a writer and Civil Servant with Railway Ministry, Govt. of India]

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