I might have missed young Latif if I had met him at a hotel or a lodge; bellboys are, after all, a part of that moving crowd which gathers (almost) no mass. But in Salim’s story, he is the hero. A hero who has a hairstyle like none other, a hero who takes care of his family of three, a hero who is the sole bread-earner of his house, a hero who launches heroic attempts to save strangers, a hero who dreams of a parallel world with a better version of him.
17-years old Latif might have reached that world he so ardently used to narrate to Stella – his colleague at Paradise Lodge and only friend – had he not been at the wrong place when the suicide of an actor happens at Room No. 555. Or might he have not?
Like a rusted window rail I have long leaned on, ‘The Bellboy‘ gnawed at my skin slow, almost going unnoticed, until suddenly, the gash felt raw and bleeding. When one after the other, everything he loved and treasured – Ibru, his mother, his sisters, Jesus, white shirt, Stella, his father, his memories, his job, his house – falls prey to the cunning of the powerful, the loathing of the majority and the rot of the system, I realized this is far from a story.
Almost vanished – the stamp on many a destinies that cradle in the lap of poverty and minority with no certain hours of sleep. This book gently, inch by inch, pushes to the fore, destiny of such a man.
When I turned the last page, a sodden, beaten lump of melancholy dropped into my being at the rude reminder of these almost vanished heroes – those who do most things in order but look up to suddenly realize the order has changed.
But they chug along. Like Latif did. In a jeep. To a place that shall change him forever.