Goat days by Benyamin - Book Review
Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Goat days is written by a Malayali author by the name Benyamin. He currently resides in Kerala and regularly writes for various Malayalam publications. He has spent a considerable number of years in the Kingdom of Bahrain and thus is able to do tremendous justice to the book - Goat Days.
The Book, The Plot, The Review and My experience
The story begins with the protagonist, Najeeb Muhammed, a poor, newly married, daily wage earner, from the Haripad, Kerala, waiting outside a police station in a Gulf country contemplating to give himself up. It so happens that the author of this post has his entire ancestry from that very same place in Kerala. And thus, as the story slowly winds backwards from the police station to a starting point in the past, where Najeeb is back in his hometown, diving every day for sand and earning his keep, I am able to make sense of the vivid green landscapes of Najeeb's hometown where the day begins with an early morning dense seaside fog, followed by the afternoon tropical heat and it ends with humid evenings, accentuated and punctuated by the funny tasting water from the wells, the green thick girthed mango trees and the tall swaying coconut trees.
With a pregnant and newly married wife at home, Najeeb struggles to make ends meet. As he wonders how to make ends meet an opportunity for employment in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, turns up mysteriously in front of Najeeb. Excited at the prospect of making money, Najeeb jumps up and grabs the opportunity. He, with great difficulty, arranges the required money to get a visa and a ticket and bids farewell to his ageing mother, his pregnant wife, his village, the sea, the greenery and the rivers. After spending some time in Mumbai waiting for some necessary paperwork, he finally boards a flight and arrives at King Khalid International Airport.
After landing in Riyadh he completes immigration formalities and eagerly waits for his sponsor outside the airport. The story begins here, and this is the point in the book where Benyamin's, the author's, creative genius shines through the sepia coloured pages. The emotional and thought-provoking description of how Najeeb feels as he waits for hours and hours for his sponsor as he watches countless others just like him getting picked up by their respective sponsors adds to the grand introduction to the story. It is remarkable how the author writes about how Najeeb convinces himself out of frustration and hunger. As night falls, a rickety old pickup arrives and an arbab (Arab) walks around the entire airport looking for his employee. Najeeb watches him and wishes deeply that this would be the sponsor that he has been waiting for all day in a foreign country. The Arab approaches Najeeb takes his passport and asks him to board the pickup. As soon as tries to enter the cabin, he is given a whack and is asked to sit behind.
It is from this point that Najeeb's great misery begins. Najeeb is brought into the middle of the desert and made a slave in a massive goat farm. This is the story of Najeeb, his slavery, a shotgun, a pair of binoculars, the Arab, the goats and the great Arabian desert.
Some notable parts of the book that really moved me.
On the first day when Najeeb tries to wash his ass with water after taking a dump, the Arab beats him up. Why? Because water is really precious in the middle of the desert and must be used only for drinking and for animal husbandry. Basic hygiene is a concept that Najeeb has to completely let go of and he, for days, reminisces his green watery village back in God's own country - Kerala. This part is really well written by the author.
The way Benyamin presents the thoughts of Najeeb during this transition phase of how Najeeb accepts his new reality, how he is able to survive in the harshest of the conditions without breaking down is quite remarkable.
Goats, Goats and Goats. I was a goat farmer from 2016 until 2018 and I truly understand and love these creatures. Najeeb's struggle may be alien to me but his experiences with the goats on the farm are very close to my own experiences. He survives his ordeal only because he had those goats around him. Every day, every mundane and repetitive day in Najeeb's life is made bearable by those naughty and happy creatures. How he is able to speak to each goat and how they speak back to him in their own special way is beautifully written in the book. And the most heartwarming moment in the book happens on the day Najeeb decides to run away for good from the goat farm. He goes in the midst of all his friends and somehow by magic, the goats come to know that Najeeb is going to leave, they all huddle next to him and bid him farewell. Most of you when you read that part would imagine that maybe Najeeb was only imagining all of that but in my own personal experience I would say that goats are indeed perceptive creatures and that last scene with the goats must definitely be true!
A definite must-read.
A tumble dryer of human emotions.
Misery, Hardships, Happiness, Action, Adventure, Endless Deserts