A NOVEL on the hardships faced by some expatriates in the Gulf by a Bahrain-based author won a top Indian award for literature, it was announced yesterday.
Indian Benny Benyamin's book Aadujeevitham (A Goat's Life), written in the Malayalam language, was chosen as last year's best novel by the Kerala Sahitya (Literary) Academy.
The academy was established in 1956 in Kerala for the promotion and development of Malayalam language and literature.
Mr Benyamin is the first person in Bahrain and only second in the region to receive the honour. He is also the recipient of several other literary awards.
Aadujeevitham is his fourth novel and it took him around two years to complete.
Critics have called it one of the best literary works in recent times by an Indian expatriate.
The book also won Abu Dhabi's Shakthi award for literature last year.
It was recently accepted as an academic textbook for under-graduate students by India's Calicut University, added Mr Benyamin.
The novel revolves around the true-life story of an Indian man named Mohammed Najeeb who spends several years in the deserts of Saudi Arabia as a goatherd with no contact with another human being.
"Najeeb was promised a job in Saudi Arabia by an acquaintance," the 39-year-old told the GDN.
"He was taken to the middle of a desert and left there to look after hundreds of goats.
"He didn't meet another human being there, except a man who used to occasionally drop by to deliver food for the goats.
"He didn't know how to get out or contact the outside world.
"His only companions were the animals and his life and character were so influenced by them.
"He was finally rescued by a friend and was able to return home.
"He came to work in Bahrain four years ago and I met him through a common friend.
"I also relate the whimsical fancies an average Indian has before coming to the Gulf and the hardships he later faces when his dreams are dashed by reality."
Mr Benyamin said that the award had made him happy and that one of the first people he spoke to after news was the novel's central character Najeeb.
"I did not expect to get the award because it is rarely given to writers who do not reside in Kerala or India," he said.
"The only person to get the award before me in the Gulf was Kochu Bava in 1998 when he was a Sharjah-resident.
"I called Najeeb to tell him about the news and he said he felt special that his life's story has won an award."
The academy said that Mr Benyamin's work was an example for people with writing skills who should not abandon their talent when they go abroad and get involved in the business of everyday life.
Mr Benyamin believes that his life in Bahrain had made him a better writer because he met people from various backgrounds, cultures and countries.
"I am currently working on my next novel and hope it will be ready in a year."
He works as a project manager for Star Technical and Trading Company and has been in Bahrain for nearly 17 years.
Mr Benyamin lives in Ghufool with his wife Asha Mathew, a Health Ministry employee, and their two children Rohan, six, and Kezia, four.
He was last year's literary wing secretary at the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam and an active member of expatriate group Bahrain Prerana.
People interested in getting a copy of the book can contact the author on 39812111.
The book is priced at BD1.