Know The Real Life Story Of Najeeb – Played By Prithviraj Sukumaran In ‘The Goat Life’

New Delhi: The trailer of Prithviraj Sukumaran’s survival drama ‘The Goat Life’, titled ‘Aadujeevitham’ in Malayalam, was released on Saturday. The film is helmed by National Award-winner Blessy. The film is based on the 2008 novel ‘Aadujeevitham’ one of the most popular best-sellers in Malayalam. Written by Benyamin, the novel has been translated into 12 languages, including foreign languages. 

‘Aadujeevitham’ is a true story of a Malayali migrant worker Najeeb who was forced into servitude as a goatherd in Saudi Arabia. Najeeb, a Malayali man was lured by the promise of work in Saudi Arabia, only to find himself trapped in a brutal situation. Forced to work as a goatherd under harsh conditions, Najeeb confronts not only physical hardship but also isolation and despair. 

Everything about the real-life story of Najeeb
Born in a village in Kerala, Najeeb, like many others, dreamt of a better life for himself and his family. In 1993, lured by the promise of a salesman job, he embarked on a journey that would change him forever. 

The agent’s sweet talk turned into a nightmare upon arrival in Saudi Arabia. Najeeb found himself not in a supermarket, but isolated in the desert, forced to herd 700 goats under a cruel employer.  

In a 2018 interview with The News Minute, Najeeb shared his ordeal and recalled the horrific time of his life. 

“I paid Rs 55,000 for the visa. We had to sell five cents of land to arrange the money. If the land was still there, it could have been sold for lakhs of rupees. The journey was via Mumbai. After reaching the desert, on the second day of travel from the airport, I didn’t see a single human being other than my Arab boss and his brother. I was not paid a single rial as salary,” he told The News Minute. 

Najeeb’s ordeal
The following two years were a blur of physical and emotional abuse. He was deprived of basic necessities, communication with loved ones, and any semblance of freedom. 

“He had no remorse even when he saw me crying and would beat me. I had to eat stale kuboos.  I would use goat’s milk to wet the kuboos and eat it. The goats were not bathed and the stench would be there in the milk as well. But I had nothing else to eat, the kuboos was too dry to eat without the milk,” he added.   

He was not allowed to take a bath. His sole attire was an extended shift-dress, and he was never provided with an alternative garment for changing. 

“The stench was nauseating but after a while, I got accustomed to it. My hair had also grown as I was not allowed to trim or shave it. There was nothing in the desert or the shed that was in the middle of it, and I was not allowed to see whatever the boss owned,” he said in the interview. 

“I hadn’t spoken to anyone for the entire two years I spent there, except to my boss. In the beginning, I didn’t understand a single word in Arabic and the boss used to beat me if I caught a black goat instead of a white one,” he told The News Minute. 

Despite the despair, a flicker of hope remained. The thought of his wife, heavily pregnant when he left, and their unborn child fueled his will to survive. 

His escape
One fateful night in 2005, opportunity knocked. While his employer and brother were away, Najeeb seized his chance and escaped. After a harrowing journey, he encountered another Malayali trapped in similar circumstances. This poignant meeting would later become a powerful scene in the novel inspired by his life. 

Exhausted but determined, Najeeb finally reached a road. An Arab driver, touched by his plight, offered him a ride to Riyadh. There, in the city’s heart, he found a haven at a Malayali restaurant. Food, a bath, a haircut – simple acts that felt like rebirth. 

Reuniting with relatives in Riyadh, Najeeb, like many migrant workers who lose their documents, surrendered to the legal system. Jail, with its basic comforts, offered a stark contrast to the brutality he endured. Finally, after ten days, he returned home, a changed man, to a son who barely recognised him. 

Najeeb resumed work as a daily wage labourer. He was given a free visa to Bahrain by his brother-in-law after two years. 

How he met Benyamin, the author of Aadujeevitham
A chance encounter with Benyamin, a writer who previously worked in Bahrain, proved life-altering. Through Najeeb’s brother-in-law’s friend, Sunil, their paths crossed. Najeeb’s story resonated deeply with Benyamin, who saw in him the struggles of countless migrant workers. 

Published in 2008, ‘Aadujeevitham’ (Goat Days) became a literary phenomenon. Najeeb’s harrowing journey, transformed into fiction, touched hearts and ignited conversations about the plight of migrant workers. The novel catapulted Benyamin to literary fame, while for Najeeb, it brought recognition. 

As of 2018 (at the time of The News Minute interview), Najeeb continued to work in Bahrain. His son, Safeer, secured a job with the Lulu Group thanks to the novel’s impact. 

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