I honestly wouldn’t want to call this a book review, for I am new to this and am totally excited to share the experience I’ve had reading Goat Days, originally ആടുജീവിതം (Aadujeevitham) by Benyamin which happens to be the first book in my personal project I’d love to call “Project India” where I would be reading atleast one book written by authors from every state and union Territory of India.
Don’t have to worry, I hate spoilers and wouldn’t divulge anything that would perhaps ruin your experience.
The Unofficial Synopsis
Would you, in your sane mind symbolise prison (no, not the metaphorical on) with freedom? Well, prison was apparently a ticket to freedom for Najeeb! Did it turn out to be? You’ll have to read the book for that.
If you think you’ve been through hell, perhaps you’d rethink your stance about hell once you listen to the tale Najeeb has to say! Imagine the horrors one had to go through if someone toiled to go to prison.
“I had resolved to come to prison. Despite its harshness, I had concluded that prison was the best option to survive my circumstances.
Yes, I landed myself in prison because of my desire to live.” – Najeeb.
Goat Days is a classic tale of survival of a man Najeeb, a sand miner who had great dreams of success in the Gulf just like millions of Malayalis have and bring back loads of money back home to his pregnant wife and provide a better life to his Ummah (mother.)
This is a story which talks about the limits a man (read as human) can push through reliving and enduring cycles of despair, hope, and acceptance of the situation Najeeb was put under by his stinking Arbab who made him survive on Khubus dipped in water for years in the midst of the desert while having only two constants -a leather belt and his unwavering faith in Allah.
I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that this is a one of a kind stories you’ll ever read and I’m not sure if it’s Benyamin’s writing or the clear translation by Joseph Koyippally that bring this story to life in such a way that you can feel the heat of the desert, the stench of goats and taste the sand while sitting in your room sipping coffee or tea while reading this.
The story is simply profound and is a first person narrative that accentuates the experience of the reader while the number of characters are limited (which helps people like me who get confused when too many characters are around, winks at George RR Martin) with each one having their own importance in the book.
This is one of those books that you’d pick up and not feel like putting it down and there simply is no part of the book that bores you. The misery is such, and the satirical style of it bring tears to your eyes.
The end of the book brings more questions than answers to the story. What could have been the confusion, why would Allah put Najeeb through such misery where his only friends were goats and completely deprived of a human to talk to? Oh, those painful piercing questions, still would be no match to swollen legs and bleeding feet and unspeakable thirst…
“My heart would then throb. One of the greatest sorrows in the world is to not have someone to share a beautiful sight.” – Najeeb
There sure is a kind of a pull towards this book that it became an overnight sensation and Benyamin went on to win the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award as well. And yes, it sure was well deserved.
This is a book for everyone, to those who are in misery, perhaps may find hope and those cheerful birds may find the value of privilege and go on to live life to the fullest!
This is one of the books that one must read in his/her lifetime!
This is a perfect 20/20 hands down.
Recommendation Level: Agar ye nahi padha, toh zindagi me kya kiya?! (What’d you achieve in life if you haven’t read this book)
You can find more Indian books I’ve read in the Project India Page.
You can find out more about my other project where I aim to read atleast One book from Every Country in the Project Cross Borders Page.
Grow wiser everyday
The Barely Wise Kushal!
PS: Oh, and did I mention the scariest part? The moment when Benyamin, in the authors note indirectly mentions this to be inspired by true events.