The Goat Days

Author:   Benyamin/ Joseph Koyippally
Publisher:   India: Penguin Books
Reviewer:   Mohammed Unais A V

The Goat Days

Benyamin/ Joseph Koyippally (2012), The Goat Days, India: Penguin Books,                                          ISBN:     9780143416333, 164 pages

Goat days is a novel written by Author Benyamin, born in Kerala (India). The book was originally written in Malayalam under the name ‘Aadujeevitham’, translated into English by Joseph Koyipally. The book is published in 2012 by Penguin Books and comprises of 43 chapters and 164 pages. It is translated into many other languages which include Arabic, Nepali, Thai, and Odiya. The Malayalam edition of the novel won the Kerala Literary Academy Award In 2009[1].The Novel appeared in the Man Asian Literary award and was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2014[2]. After the translation of this book from Malayalam to English, the novel made a helping hand to enable the voices of marginalised labour migrants audible across the globe. The novel discovers the diasporic elements of the protagonist’s journey. It acts as an eye-opener for people who desire to migrate to foreign lands in search of better monetary conditions.

The novel illustrates the life of Najeeb Muhammed, an Indian emigrant who dreams to work in the Middle East Nations to earn enough money to settle down his old debts and provide a better life for his family. The novel explores the harsh brutalities those migrants faced when they moved to another land for a better livelihood for their families. The protagonist Najeeb Muhammad, a hardworking youngster decided to go to the gulf country for better employment and monetary opportunities by mortgaging his house, his wife’s jewelry, and borrowing money from his family. But everything got changed upside down when he landed in Riyadh. Najeeb and his friend Hakeem were abducted and forced to move towards a goat shed in a desert by a local slave called Arbab. From that moment Najeeb knows that his life is not leading to what he dreams of. Najeeb lived in an isolated place called ‘masara’ where he survived with some goats and camels surrounding the desert (P:45) Human company was forbidden for him and he could interact only with some goats around him. In a feeling of alienation, he slowly cultivated a strong familial bond with the goats. Thus, he continued his wretched condition of life by doing every kind of job in the middle of deprivation and agony in an unknown Arabian desert.

The story is divided into four parts - Prison, Desert, Escape, and Refuge. In the first part Prison, the novel begins with a short section from the end of his time in Saudi Arabia where he was voluntarily enrolled in a large country prison called Sumesi prison which he added it was the best place to survive under any circumstances. The facility for undocumented migrants is also not that bad, it appeared more like a disaster-relief camp for Najeeb. It is far better than his condition in the desert. Najeeb describes sumesi prison as a place where “the prisoners, lying down in whatever space they could manage, resembled dead bodies laid out after a natural disaster” (P:13), and elsewhere refers to his particular block as “a railway station where people arrived and departed” (P:25). The protagonist also enjoys a new kind of freedom in the prison where he realized that he is not the only victim of the migration, several people were struggling in different ways.

In the second part ‘Desert’, the author tries to convey the intensity of oppression and suppression the protagonist faced while he was in the desert. The protagonist faces different forms of exploitation from the local Arab who abducted Najeeb and his friend Hakeem. The Arbab does not treat him like a human being nor does he provide the basic amenities necessary for a man to survive. Najeeb continued his animal-like life in the desert which is completely under the control of the local Arab. Thus, he feels that his life has become meaningless and is left without any choice or freedom.

In the third part ‘Escape’, the protagonist tried to abscond from the desert, but he gets caught several times by the Arbab which makes the situation far worse. At last, he escaped from the alien land where he is not familiar with any people. He believed that his faith in his god, Allah helps him to survive these awful days in the desert.  On their long journey through the desert, he lost his brother like friend Hakeem also. On his way, he ended up in front of the hotel which is owned by a Malayali named Kunjikka. With his help, he stayed there for a period of three months where his wounds healed and regained his health. From there after several days of planning, he decided to give himself up to the police. Thus, in this section, the novelist conveyed the helplessness the migrant faced while he is entrapped in the desert.

In the fourth part ‘Refuge’, the author introduces the readers to the system of immigration detention where the protagonist reaches the prison named Sumesi where he enjoys a kind of freedom that he never enjoyed in his days in the desert. For him, life in prison realizes that he is not the only one who has been a victim of the other side of migration which is dreadful and horrible. He says, “Everyone who ended up in the jail had a similar story like mine to tell–of pain, sorrow, suffering, tears, innocence, and helplessness”(P:19). Thus, the journey from the desert to prison becomes a journey from the burden of slavery to freedom.

Goat days clearly narrates the experiences of one such migrant worker to the Gulf from India who stood determined even in the state of lack and misery in an unknown desert. The author has clearly presented all the sorrows and misinterpretations that Najeeb endured during his span in Saudi Arabia. This is not just Najeeb’s story, it is the life story of millions of migrants traveling to gulf countries for the sake of better livelihood for their families. Thus, the author clearly examines the causes of voluntary migration and its impacts on the national as well as international arena. It also provides an insight into the lives of many oppressed people who suffer in various countries other than their homeland for a better life. This novel will be helpful for further studies in the field of migration and diasporic studies. Being a migrant, his further novels also concentrate on the topics of migration which will be a driving force for other migrant workers to reveal their stories to the public.



Benyamin/ Joseph Koyippally (2012), The Goat Days, India: Penguin Books,   ISBN:  9780143416333, 164 pages


Reviewed by  Mohammed Unais A V

Mohammed Unais A V is  pursuing his master’s from the School of International Relations and Politics, MAHATMA GANDHI UNIVERSITY, KOTTAYAM. Currently, I am working as a content curator for the website The International prism.


© 2012-20 GRFDT, All Rights Reserved.Maintained by GRFDT.Designed by Abhinav Jain