The 365 Days – A Book Review
Dubai, “The City of Gold”, the melting point of the World conjures up images of a dazzling city with buildings literally scrape the sky. A city that has risen like a phoenix from sands of the desert. A city that has been a modern day El Dorada which draws millions from across the globe like a magnet. A city that rises as tall as its iconic landmark, the Burj Khalifa.
The phenomenal growth of Dubai as a modern city has always held a fascination for me. The fact that it drew hordes from India with dreams in their eyes added to the fascination. But whispers that rose to a crescendo started being heard on social and other media about everything not being as hunky dory and gleaming as it looked. Whispers of a grotesque underbelly of Dubai began to be heard. Stories of exploitation of the working class slowly made its way, casting a gloom over the gleaming façade of Dubai city.
Given my fascination about Dubai, I jumped at the chance of reviewing a book called. “The 365 Days”, by debutante author Nikhil Ramteke who is an M.Tech. in Chemical Technology and works in Sharjah, UAE. He is a painter, photographer, and an avid traveler. The book – The 365 Days is a fictional work that is set in Dubai during the years 2007-2008.
I picked up the book – The 365 Days and was immediately riveted to it. Page after page passed through my eyes as my mind vividly pictured the characters and the story penned down by the author. When I put down the book after reading the last word in the last page, I knew a little more about Dubai, not only the gleaming and dazzling Dubai but also its dirty and obnoxious underbelly. Yes, the book is a fictional account, but I am sure it is a reflection of the the reality of those places and times.
The book – The 365 Days is the story of the travails of a simple fisherman from a small village in Kerala who goes to Dubai with stars in his eyes chasing a dream, like countless others from Kerala and other parts of India and the world.
The book – The 365 Days is written in First Person in the words of Shiju, who is the protagonist of the story. The beauty of coastal Kerala, “God’s Own Country”, is the initial setting for the story. It also underlines the irony that people from this beautiful land scour distant lands in search of their livelihood and dreams. The author succeeds in painting a beautiful picture of the Sea and the little village in which the protagonist lives. However, fishing is fast ebbing as a means of economic survival with the advent of big companies into fishing. Shiju lured by dreams of hitting it big and economically uplifting the status of his family bites into the bait and lands in Dubai as a construction worker.
The glittering dreams start to fade even as Shiju is driven across the dazzling city of Dubai and beyond into a dilapidated camp in the middle of the desert. A place which would be his home in Dubai. Crammed into dingy and smelly rooms with bunkers built into them, treated like the scum of the earth, with not even the luxury of hope, Shiju like many others slowly settles into a nightmare that has crystallized into reality from his dreams.
The author has painted a stark picture of the conditions in which Shiju and many of his ilk lived and worked in Dubai. He has not minced words, nor is there any sugar coating. The account may actually leave one nauseous, but then, that is the power of reality! It is a bitter pill to swallow!
The narrative does tend to dwell a wee bit more on the abysmal condition of the camp and the web in which the protagonist has found himself entangled in, however probably that is necessary to highlight the actual conditions that these wretched workers faced.
The narrative suddenly jolts out of the morbid routine that it had fallen into to move towards the end. The story first touches you, repels you, angers you, but never bores you. The author in his debut novel has woven a story that blends the elements of human frailty, human endurance, human suffering, human greed, human love, human kindness, and human anger into an intricate mosaic of emotions. The story transports the reader from the shores of a small village in Kerala to the dingy labour quarters of a construction company in the heart of the desert.
Watch this trailer video – The 365 Days: A Novel
The book – The 365 Days is definitely a must-read and will give one a feel of the underbelly of Dubai and how the working class who actually built the city with their hands lived. But do not expect to read a fairy tale. The book is raw and real and packs in power.
The Book – The 365 Days is published by Write India Publications and is available on Amazon. Click here is the link to buy the book at Amazon.
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