When Benny Daniel followed legions of young men from Kerala to the Gulf in the early 1990s, he had no idea he would become the writer Benyamin one day, writing as many as 23 books in his first 20 years of writing. Or that his novel Jasmine Days, in English translation, would go on to win the first JCB Prize for Literature in 2018.

In a conversation with history writer Manu Pillai (video above), Benyamin speaks of his search for an identity once he began working in West Asia, which led him to read avidly for seven or eight years, and finally led him to writing, via letters to his friends.

After his initial frenzy of writing, he says, he will now slow down. If he writes for another 30 years, Benyamin will not publish more than four or five books.