The original Malayalam version of the novel, Goat Days, is celebrating its hundredth reprint. The novel tells the story of a young man named Najeeb who goes to the Gulf from Kerala in the 1990s in pursuit of his dreams for a better life: a decent home, a TV with a VCP, some gold ornaments for the family... What he gets, however, is a solitary life with a herd of goats somewhere in the Arabian deserts. He is trapped inescapably between the burning desert sands and the freezing lonely nights. Every attempt of his to explore beyond the enclosure assigned to him is met with inhuman punishments. The goats eventually become his friends, the only friends, so much so that he consummates the bond by mating with a she-goat one night. His dreams do not die, however. He is innocent enough to dream endlessly. His innocence and the dreams born of that innocence help him to escape finally.
The novel is based on the experiences of a real person who is still living in Kerala, having returned home after his escape from his “goat days”. The man still retains his innocence, says the author in the epilogue to the Malayalam version I read three years ago. Penguin published the English translation three years ago, but I preferred to read the original Malayalam version and a friend in Kochi was generous enough to send me a copy.
|Courtesy The Hindu|
Certain judicial verdicts made in the present India reminded me strangely of Najeeb and his innocence. People with political power, financial clout or some such influence can escape punishment in India, it seems, whatever their offence. Evidences disappear miraculously for such people. Or scapegoats carry their sins and go to prison. Or their crime is trivialised to such an extent that they become the victims ostensibly more pathetic than the real victims.
The balance is highly tilted. Social Darwinism has not only become the norm but also gained respectability. Those who have clout of any sort can do anything at all and get away with it, however inhuman the deed.
Religious leaders can encroach upon reserved forests with the full support of the government and the judiciary. Land mafia groups can subvert every law regarding acquisition of agricultural or other lands. Educational institutions can disappear overnight to pave the way for shopping malls or tourist resorts. Venal goons masquerade as moral guardians of the society. Gods are peddled on the streets like cheap toys.
Yet I dream. Maybe, I’m a bit like Najeeb of Goat Days. Maybe, I’m a fool.