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Updated: January 17, 2014 18:33 IST

World audience to be made aware of Diaspora’s plight in Saudi, says Benyamin

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A file picture of Novelist Benyamin Daniel at a function in Chennai. Photo: S.S. Kumar.
The Hindu
A file picture of Novelist Benyamin Daniel at a function in Chennai. Photo: S.S. Kumar.

Kerala-born novelist Benyamin Daniel, who deftly weaves an experience of the Indian Diaspora in Saudi Arabia, in his bestseller Malayalam fiction, has said it is important for international audience to read about it.

“It is difficult to find an English account of sufferings faced by Indian emigrants in Gulf countries and it is something which needs to be told to an international audience,” Mr. Daniel said at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur on Friday.

“Goat Days” an English translation by Joseph Koyippalli of Daniel’s “Aadujeevitham,” is among the six works shortlisted for the $ 50,000 DSC prize for South Asian Literature 2014 set to be revealed on Saturday.

The book highlights the difficulties faced by emigrants to Gulf countries and cites incidents of people being forced to live and work like slaves.

In Friday’s session, Mr. Joseph was in conversation with Mr. Benyamin and talked about a paradox with Kerala. “We live in a paradox,” he said.

The translator said that there is much more to Kerala than the 100 per cent literary rate and high standard of living.

“Kerala is getting high remittance but still there is no investment or industry there because the area is not sustainable so how you can call such state an educated state?” asked Mr. Joseph.

Mr. Benyamin also read out a portion of the book, which tells the story of a Malayali who lands up in Saudi Arabia and is kidnapped by his employer and forced to live in a deserted place and tend to goats.

Mr. Joseph said that it was a touching story, and highlighted the need for telling such plight to the international audience. He recalled that he found the work of translation easy since he had a similar experience while living in Saudi Arabia and could relate to the story.

“Both of us are from Kerala and lived and shared similar experience in Saudi Arabia so I had no difficulty in translating the book,” he said.

Responding to a question by a foreigner Joseph said there was a huge difference in the treatment meted out to Indians and those from the West in the Gulf countries.

“They ask us whether Indians are able to teach English at a University or college level. They identify Indians with sweepers, drivers or petty shop runners. The way they are respected is totally different,” he said.

The 43-year-old writer Benyamin pointed out that the book was full of faith and determination and passes on the same message to readers.

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I am delighted that a book has been written and also translated into English about the plight
of Indian workers in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf benefit from the cheap
labour of the South Asian migrants but treat them inhumanly. Prejudice against migrant
workers is a global fact but no Global organisation take seriously to protect migrants from the
political abuses of above mentioned countries.

I hope soon some other local and indignious writers will follow the example of the Indian
writer to expose the realities of migrant workers in the Arab World specially in Saudi Arabia.

from:  Dr.Salim Haidrani
Posted on: Jan 19, 2014 at 22:21 IST
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