Goat Days

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Goat Days
Cover of Goat Days, published by Penguin Books India
Author Benyamin
Original title Aadujeevithamm
Translator Joseph Koyippally[1]
Cover artist Joy Gosney
Country India
Language Malayalam
Genre Novel, fiction
Publisher Penguin Books (English)[2]
Green Books (Malayalam)
Publication date
15 July 2008
Published in English
1 July 2012[3]
Pages 255
ISBN 978-01-4341-633-3 (English), 978-81-8423-117-5 (Malayalam)
Preceded by Abigeesan (Malayalam)
Followed by Manjaveyil Maranangal (Malayalam)

Goat Days (original title: Malayalam: ആടുജീവിതം Aadujeevitham) is a 2008 Malayalam novel about an abused migrant worker in Saudi Arabia written by Bahrain-based Indian author Benyamin (born Benny Daniel). The novel was first published in serial form in Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly.[4] [5]

The novel is based on real-life events and was a best seller in Kerala.[6] According to media, Benyamin became an "overnight sensation" with the publication of this "hard-hitting story" and is currently one of the top sellers in Malayalam.[2] The original Malayalam version of Goat Days has gone through over 70 reprints.[7]

The novel depicts the life of Najeeb Muhammad, an Indian emigrant going missing in Saudi Arabia. Najeeb's dream was to work in the Persian Gulf states and earn enough money to send back home. But, he achieves his dream only to be propelled by a series of incidents into a slavelike existence herding goats in the middle of the Saudi desert. In the end, Najeeb contrives a hazardous scheme to escape his desert prison. Penguin Books India's introduction describes the novel as "the strange and bitter comedy of Najeeb’s life in the desert" and "a universal tale of loneliness and alienation".[1][8]

The English translation of the novel appeared in the long list of Man Asian Literary Prize 2012 and in the short list of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2013. It also won the Kerala Literary Academy Award for Benyamin in 2009.[9]

Plot summary[edit]

The book is divided into four parts (Prison, Desert, Escape and Refuge).

Najeeb Muhammad, the protagonist of the novel, a young man from somewhere near Haripad, Kerala state, is newly married and dreams of a better work in any of the Persian Gulf states. However, at the King Khalid International Airport, he gets trapped and is taken away by a rich Arab animal farm supervisor to his farm. He is being used as a "slave" labourer and shepherd and is assigned to look after goats, sheep and camels for almost three and half years in the remote deserts of Saudi Arabia. He is forced to do backbreaking work, is kept half-hungry and is denied water to wash and suffers unimaginably. The farm's brutal supervisor keeps Najeeb in control with a gun and binoculars and frequently beats him with a belt.

In a country where he does not know the language, places or people, he is far away from any human interaction. Najeeb steadily starts to identify himself with the goats. He considers himself as one of them. His dreams, desires, avenges and hopes starts to become one with them. He talks to them, eats with them, sleeps with them and virtually lives the life of a goat. Still he keeps a ray of hope which will bring freedom and end to his sufferings some day.

Finally one night with the help of Ibrahim Khadiri, a Somalian worker in the neighbouring farm, Najeeb Muhammed and his friend Hakeem elopes from the horrible life to freedom. But, the trio fumbles across the desert for days, and young Hakeem dies of thirst and fatigue. Finally, Ibrahim Khadiri and Najeeb manage to find their way to Al-Bathaa, Riyadh, where Najeeb gets himself arrested by the Regular Police in order to get deported to India. Najeeb spends several months in the Sumesi (Arabic: الشميسي‎‎Ash-Shumaisi) Prison before being put on a plane to India by the Saudi Arabian authorities.

Main characters[edit]

Benyamin about his novel Goat Days
  • Najeeb Muhammad (Number 13858 at Sumesi Prison), the protagonist of the novel, spent three and half years (4 April 1992 – 13 August 1995) in a remote farm in the Saudi Arabian desert. Originally a sand miner in Kayamkulam, he is given the visa by a Karuvatta-based friend for 30,000 (equivalent to 160,000 or US$2,500 in 2016) as a helper in a construction company in Saudi Arabia.
  • Hakeem
  • Ibrahim Khadiri
  • Arab owner
  • Hameed
  • Kunjikka
  • Sainu

Meeting real-life Najeeb Mahummad[edit]

Recounting his meeting with the real-life Najeeb, Benyamin reminisces: "But when I heard his tale, I knew this was the story I was waiting to tell the world and I knew this had to be told. Usually we only hear of stories of success from the Gulf. But I wanted to talk about the many who lead lives of suffering and pain." The reluctant Najeeb who wanted to forget his past had to be coaxed to recount his story.[2]


The original book was published by Green Books Private Limited, Thrissur on 15 July 2008. The English translation of the novel for Penguin Books was carried out by Joseph Koyippally, a literature professor in the Central University of Kerala.[2][10][11]

It has been translated into Arabic by Indian expatriate Suhail Wafy working as Arabic translator in Doha, Qatar. The translations into Tamil, Kannada and Hindi are due for release.[4]

Goat Days has been translated into Nepali by Dinesh Kafle, a Nepali translator and literary critic based in New Delhi. Titled "Khabuj" in Nepali, it was published to a wide critical acclaim in August 2015 by FinePrint, a Kathmandu-based publisher.



Acclaimed Malayalam director Blessy had announced that he would be making a film based on the book, Aadu Jeevitham. However, the author noted, "We are still in the discussion stage. Our plans for a film had to be postponed when we realised that its production cost would not be feasible for a Malayalam film. Now we are planning something on a larger scale and Prithviraj will play Najeeb's role.[2] "

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b AllTimeBooks.com or Indianbooks.co.in. "Goat Days By Benyamin (translated by Joseph Koyipally) - Second Hand Books - from AllTimeBooks.com or Indianbooks.co.in and". Biblio.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Saraswathy Nagarajan (12 September 2012). "Arts / Books : ‘I write for my satisfaction’". Chennai, India: The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  3. ^ "Goat Days". Caravanmagazine.in. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  4. ^ a b Anandan, S. (6 December 2012). "Three Malayalis on the Man Asian longlist". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 
  5. ^ "aadujeevitham". Indulekha.com. 
  6. ^ "Words In Migration". www.outlookindia.com. 17 October 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  7. ^ http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/POMekzI7Lf7gwH8FmLfJ4O/Jaipur-Literature-Festival--Beastly-tales-A-conversation-w.html
  8. ^ "Goat Days". Penguin Books India. 15 July 2012. Archived from the original on 22 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  9. ^ "Literary Awards". Government of Kerala. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Book review: Goat Days - Lifestyle - DNA". Dnaindia.com. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  11. ^ "Koyippally's Benyamin, an intelligent work of translation- IBN Live". ibnlive.in.com. 14 August 2012. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 2012-10-26. 

External links[edit]