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," Daniel said at the Jaipur Literature Festival here on Friday.
"Goat Days" an English translation by Joseph Koyippalli of Daniel's "Aadujeevitham," is among the six works shortlisted for the USD 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, Joseph was in conversation with 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% 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 Joseph.
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.
Joseph said that since both he and Benyamin hailed from Kerala and also lived in Saudi Arabia at different times , they had witnessed things in a similar way. Therefore, said the translator, he could easily translate Benyamin's work.
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.