Death has Many Faces
Suman Bhagchandani
THE BELLBOY by Anees Salim Penguin/Random House, 2022, 232 pp., ₹ 599.00
March 2023, volume 47, No 3

‘You know what my husband calls this place?’ Stella asked. ‘Suicide Lodge.’

In yet another riveting piece of literature, Anees Salim revives the theme of death as perceived by a young adult protagonist. The bellboy consistently maintains the ever-imposing doom of death by suicide and/or accident seen from a safe distance of ‘forced indifference’. During the course of the novel, we see the keen observer of deaths, Latif, turn into an amateur anthropologist who starts making mental notes of suicides in Paradise Lodge. It is also the beginning of Latif as a storyteller who intersperses conversations with fabulae, each time his world becomes too daunting to engage with.

The boy’s familiarity with death and the need to escape confrontation with it starts even before he enters ‘suicide lodge’. Early in his life Latif loses his father to a heroic act of attempting to save an ecologist’s life, and yet somehow, he manages to protect his childlike innocence and wry humour. This, until he abruptly feels like a grown-up as he witnesses death by suicide of a lodger.

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