Rating: 3.5/5 stars
About this book:
This is a story that falls through the crevices of pitiless anonymity, yet miraculously waits to be told.
Shijukutty, a Malayali fisherman, leaves his tiny hamlet of abject poverty in the coastal village of Vizhinjam on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, that picturesque vignette of searing beauty on the southwestern coast of India.
Shiju, like millions of other Malayalis, seeks his destiny in Dubai, that gleaming global hub of fortune on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf. What unfolds is a stirring story of distilled hardship, exploitation, identity, and friendship, and the heartbreaking choices Shiju is often forced to make.
So what he sees is not what he experiences when he lands in a world of glimmering towers, fast-paced life, and unabashed opulence. For what he was not prepared for was the dark underbelly of Dubai beyond the shimmering mirage.
Shiju’s life is no more the same. But he holds his ground, drawing on ancient instincts of his seafaring ancestry. As things settle down around him, he is inexorably pulled into the canyon of recession…
Will Shiju be able to hold on to his dreams? Will he able to pull out himself from the whirlpool? Will he survive against all odds? Will he redeem himself?
The 365 days is an important book as it highlights the harsh conditions faced by labourers in the gulf. It is not just a story of Shiju (a Malayali) who leaves his home in order to go earn for his family and how he is cheated and beaten to the bone, both literally and figuratively, but it is also a story of all those thousands of labourers who have survived in the same conditions and others who have suffered worse. The fact that despite such an important theme, the book failed to leave a mark upon me is a fault of the writing. The story is simple and you don’t expect any big twists and turns in it because that is not the point. it is a character-driven story and Shiju is a likeable character. He is like any man, who loves his family, has a background in fishing but strives to achieve something better. But when he lands in Dubai, his dreams of what he expected to happen clash with the reality and he is stuck there in harsh circumstances just living day after another because there is no other choice. We meet other such interesting characters as well and this much is everything I liked about the book. The emotions it invoked with what it stood for makes it a good book.
But the writing style could have been different. Yes, the writer uses some poetic prose form at times to keep you reading but then there were a bunch of times with info dump that just irked me and yes it was important to tell how different the characters were from each other but bringing the castes and their habits into it again and again made me think less of the character itself.