Long-delayed, yes, but finally finished Benyamin’s ‘Aadu Jeevitham‘ recently. My biggest issue in reading the book was with film director Blessey, who had announced he is making the novel a film with Prithviraj in the lead.
I simply couldn’t shake Prithviraj off my head as I tried to identify with the protagonist Najeeb, who happens to live for three years and some, virtually confined in a remote (as remote as the world ever could be) farmhouse.
For some reason, I see Prithviraj as a gross misfit to play Najeeb. Najeeb, to me, is one of those countless (faceless) Malayalis who are forced to slog for a living in the Gulf. They cannot be this flamboyant young actor, who (again personally speaking) seems to have just a permanent scowl on his face than anything else. (Well, happy to be proved wrong).
Once I cast aside Prithviraj, and gave Najeeb the face I fancied (a wiry man with a thick moustache and curly hair; dark brown and short), the reading was easier.
Yet, the novel, somehow didn’t work for me to the extent I expected. Maybe my expectations were sky-high, having read Benyamin’s brilliant interview in Mathrubhumi weekly (that floored me and made my a slavish fan of the author). Perhaps I expected the magic of an Alchemist in ‘Aadujeevitham.’
For me ‘Aadujeevitham’ was an extended reportage – with some powerful visual elements (the snake procession in the desert, for example). In the intial pages, it was author over protagonist. But yes, a must read for all Gulf Malayalis.
Incidentally, the other day, spoke to a Malayali taxi driver in Dubai, who told me of coming across several such ‘goatherders’ in Saudi Arabia. The driver used to supply materials for a farm, not much different from the settings of Najeeb.
I asked him about ‘Aadujeevitham.’ He wasn’t interested at all. “Oh there are hundreds like him in Saudi Arabia,” he said. But yes, it took one Benyamin to bring that tale to our midst.
Also read this spectacular obit on Warren Christopher, in FT.
“‘My task, he wrote, ‘has been the serve as the steward, not the proprietor, of extraordinary public trust.'”
Nice one, that!