Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 06/27/18 2:22 PM

Book review: Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan

I was blown clean away by Deepak Unnikrishnan`s Temporary People (Penguin Books). It is a set of short stories, a poem or two, some pages of artwork  about the `guest workers`  the migrant labour of the Gulf, mostly Malayalis, who toil without any recognition, without much dignity, without adequate creature comforts and worst of all, without a shred of confidence in either themselves or the jobs they do. Foreign nationals constitute over 80 per cent of the population in a nation built by people who are eventually required to leave.

Everything is temporary: their work, their residences, their moments of happiness (it would be too much to say `joy`), their confidence in themselves, their self-esteem. Everything but their existential angst: that is not temporary. It grows inside them till it jostles everything else, pushes it all out and occupies the space within.

Unnikrishnan uses direct if complex sentences which are, on the surface,  shorn of any sentimentality yet hold in them so much roiling emotion, so much sadness. And the language, oh the language!

The book is a difficult read. It is also a must read.

book reviewDeepak UnnikrishnanMalayalis in the UAEmigrant labour in the GulfTemporary People

Sheila Kumar • June 27, 2018

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