THE COCKROACH VIGIL – by Devika Rajan
This a delightfully allegorical short novel. It reminded me of Kafka’s ‘Investigations of a Dog’ in which the unnamed narrator, a dog, recounts a number of episodes from its past, to rationalize and resolve the basic questions of its existence. Here the cockroach has been made real by naming it. The fact that it is a cockroach which is the protagonist, dawns on you slowly as you read.
Laroche and his niece were by the kitchen drain. Laroche had a view of the outside through a crack – the real world outside and not just the next room.
.. But their egg cases were secure
The entire setting is surreal with a nuclear holocaust as a result of the misadventures of a country. The entire wiping out of life in the future appears a possibility. While Laroche the cockroach narrates how through time immemorial despite being under threat of annihilation and being trampled upon, they had risen again and again. Here is where the allegory gets stronger alluding to the fact that despite the conflicts between the strong and the weak, the ruler and the ruled, the Gods and the lesser mortals, humankind can emerge stronger and resilient if we could only get rid of our prejudices and irrational beliefs. I particularly liked –
“You elders don’t value yourselves. We don’t need gods, we don’t need validation from others”
“Let go of the past!! I will not allow it shape our future! When we come back, we ourselves will be the gods. Uncle, LET GO OF THE PAST.”
Ultimately the cockroach teaches us the art of adaptability and ultimate survival instincts under any conditions.
This book though a short read leaves its impact on the reader and will for a long time.