KOCHI:A poverty-stricken youth from a tiny hamlet in Kerala heading to the Gulf seeking a life. As familiar as it sounds, this is what essentially forms the crux of countless expatriate dreams.
This recurrent tale of hope, despair and survival obviously didn’t escape UAE-based Marathi engineer Nikhil Ramteke’s notice. “My routine comprises of daily interaction with technicians and general labourers. In the course, I started confronting their personal issues here and back home. It shattered me. My head was full of their stories. I knew I had to write it down,” says Ramteke.
So, when he sat down to pen ‘The 365 Days’, Ramteke, hailing from Nagpur in Maharashtra, knew nobody than a Malayali better represented his protagonist.
Thus, a Marathi engineer gave life to the character of Shijukutty, a Malayali fisherman who leaves his coastal town for Dubai like million others in search of a fortune.
In gripping words, Ramteke weaves a captivating tale of Shijukutty’s life, dreams and tragedies, thereby putting the focus on million of expatriates in the Gulf region.
But, how could a Marathi write convincingly about Malayali life? “I have been working here for the last nine years. Malayalis are part and parcel of my daily life. Most of my colleagues and friends are from Kerala. Malayalam drops into my ears everyday more than any other language.
Actually, I didn’t need to put any effort. It is in the air,” says Ramteke. However, the writer says his book doesn’t restrict itself to one community. “Though the protagonist is a Malayali, the story deals with the situation of labour expatriates, their struggle and alienation in foreign land. Then, major Indian expatriate’s population in Gulf comprises of Malayalis. So, it was an easy way to connect too,” he adds.
The book has been published by Write India Publishers and is priced at Rs 175.
Ramteke says he is familiar with the Malayalam literature that explores expatriate life too. “When I checked back, I found some excellent works like Benyamin’s ‘Goat Days’ and K M Abbas’ Desert that details the plight of expatriates in Gulf. But, it was written in Malayalam and later translated to English. This prompted me to write my debut novel so that non-Malayalis could also know the reality,” he says.