Foreword to 'Shattered Gulf Dream'
Gayathri Devi, a young researcher, has published a study of Benyamin's 'Adujeevitham' with the title 'Shattered Gulf Dream'. I was invited to write a Foreword, which is below.
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” These words of George Orwell reverberated in my mind as I finished reading Benyamin’s “Adujeevitham” in Malayalam. Having read this masterly study of the English translation, I realize that several theories can be advanced to place Benyamin and his book in the literary and the socio-political scene. Like other authors of creative fiction, Benyamin may be surprised at the number of theories he has invoked in the fertile minds of others.
The author has rightly analyzed the various strands of the diaspora experience and identified the diasporic trauma as fundamental to Najeeb’s plight, so poignantly portrayed by Benyamin. She comes to the same conclusion as George Orwell that man, in his depravity, becomes one with the animal. Najeeb himself says, “I am a goat.” The English version of the book could well be entitled ‘Goatman’ to convey the message.
In the study of the diaspora, in its various forms and manifestations in different countries and different times, the author places Najeeb as part of the Gulf Diaspora geographically, the Modern Diaspora in time, the Proletarian Diaspora or the Slave Diaspora in nature. Their loyalty to the homeland and their mutual dependence wither away in the case of Najeeb and their social exclusion is irrelevant as he has only goats to interact with socially and even sexually. But he is one with the thousands, who have shattered Gulf dreams to nurse. By a process of “introjection”, the trauma becomes part of their psyche.
Marx’s theory of alienation is also an appropriate theory to invoke in the case of Najeeb. Marx also had claimed that workers are animals. Workers have no stake in the property they look after or the food they produce. The alienation of the diaspora from the society is seen more acutely in diaspora workers. Like men and pigs became interchangeable, the worker and the goats become one in ‘Adujeevitham’.
‘Adujeevitham’ is painful to read, in fact the most painful story I have ever read, because we know it is not fiction. Every Keralite will relate to the Gulf dream, which turned into a nightmare. A shiver goes down the spine to think that anyone of us could be in Najeeb’s shoes or the lack of it, if another option had not knocked on our doors. Those who have been through the kind of experience in the Gulf will probably have worse stories to tell.
I have heard Benyamin say that it was his lonely years in the Gulf that turned him into a writer. Having nothing else to do outside his working hours, he read up everything that he could get hold of for ten years or so and he blossomed into a consummate storyteller. Najeeb’s story came to him as a godsend to put his talents to test. And he came out in flying colours. The present study would enable Benyamin to see new dimensions of his own story and that is where the author of the study has made a great contribution.