If you have Mallu friends, then I bet you that at least one of them has a relative or a family member who works or has worked in the Gulf. In my childhood, I used to envy these friends when they would happily tell us about all the exotic presents and chocolates their parents would get for them from the Gulf.
To a child, whose friend had a parent working in the Gulf meant two things;
1) no strict rules
2) having access to the fancy toys and confectionary that one would never find in India.
As I grew up, these thoughts remained with me. I read about Kerala’s remittances economy briefly in college and in my very limited knowledge that seemed like a great life. I didn’t really understand what the fuss was all about, but I was so wrong.
Reading ‘The 365 Days’ by Nikhil Ramteke in the past few days opened my eyes to the harsh realities of those who go to the glimmering Dream City, Dubai, with hope filled eyes and debt filled pockets, in order to make it big.
The story begins slowly, giving the readers the time to familiarize themselves with the protagonist Shijukutty and his life. We see the world through his eyes. His daily struggles and his aspirations are a part of his narrative and then one day he decides he, too, would like to try his luck in the Land of Gold.
Within a span of few pages we are whizzed through the formalities and we and Shiju are transported into the Gulf. The labour camps are cramped, with people packed in small spaces, the construction sites are dreary and the work is backbreaking. Still, it seemed it was worth it, especially when the salary was in dirhams. Sadly, this illusion is broken too.
The book contains colorful characters with their own set of stories; it deals with the themes of love, grief and laughter with a pinch of salt of course. We see the wealth disparities between the educated Indians and the Indians who were duped by agents back home.
A line from the book that really touched me goes, “Finally, most of us left the Dream City with a rattling body, a broken spirit and an empty soul”. It effectively sums up Shiju’s 365 days.
The book is simple, heart touching and definitely makes a good read for those who want to understand a different perspective on the Gulf Money. Kudos to the author for doing such a great job.