Cities are not just built by concrete and planning. They are built with sweat, tears, and memories of many laborers who leave their life behind. The 365 Days is one such ode to the many immigrants who land in alien cities to earn a living for their families back in town, in return facing many hardships, sometimes unimaginable.
My office is near Dundahera Chowk in Gurgaon, and during my commute, I see thousands of workers frolicking towards different construction sites. Sometimes when there’s traffic on the road, a leave the car behind and walk with them. I secretly listen to their grievances and plans for their families back in the village. Some of them are scared for their life when their boss asks them to work without a proper harness, hanging from the high rise buildings.
When I received a review request from Nikhil Ramteke, I was instantly drawn towards the story of The 365 Days. Shijukutty, a Maylyali fisherman decides to leave his quaint home, based in the coastal village of Vizhinjam on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. Like millions of other Malayalis, Shiju also seeks his destiny in Dubai, the global hub of construction dreams and a promising land of fortunes. He has seen examples of many of his neighbors being rewarded whilst they work in 50 degrees every day.
Once he reaches Dubai, the initial few days he is lost in the crowd, getting to know fellow Malayalis and other employees in the labor camp. And a day comes when he truly realizes that he is in a land of opportunity, where working hard and earning is the only thing he has to do.
But Dubai is not so easy on Shiju. Because of being duped by the recruitment agency on his salary part and rough behavior of other camp mates, his dreams begin to tremble day by day. The terrible upkeep of the camp, the exploitation, the prescription pills to keep him steady and heartbreaking choices, The 365 Days shows the stark reality of how a city is built.
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 not just about counting days in Shiju’s life, but about how bad the condition of laborers is in Gulf countries, and how nobody is there to help them. While reading, I remembered my experience when I took a trip down to Dubai with my family a few years back and how our passports were taken from us, the kind of looks we received for being an outsider, the kind of mockery my mother received when she asked for vegetarian food. But then these memories don’t measure up to the hardships that have been shared in this book.
The only issue I had while reading this book that story wavered a bit in places which might make a reader little irritated. Also, there are spelling mistakes which cannot be ignored! But all in all, The 365 Days makes up for a nice and in-depth read.