We have hired a cook who comes in every day. His value to our livelihood is immense – he ensures that the primary requirement in every day life is resolved by cooking our food. He has his quirks, we all do. He goes around to 12 other houses in a single day, repeating the task in a seemingly tireless way. He works hard. He is up from 6:00 a.m in the morning, reporting to his first house at 6:45 a.m, returning home for lunch and a nap in the afternoon before another bout of cooking across multiple houses resumes in the evening. He finishes the day at 10:30 p.m, returning home for dinner and a night’s sleep.
He forms part of a large migrant community that moves from a smaller town to a big city in search of opportunities and a better livelihood than the one that they experience back home. The blueprint has remained the same through centuries and continues unabated even today. They leave their children and family back there to be brought up by supporting family members while they supposedly bring in cash and a better life for the family. Selfless in sacrificing their lives for improving the lives of their families back home. Sonu, as we will call him, is fastidious and toils really hard in a foreign land. For him, a foreign country is much more appealing than just another city. He is looking for ways in which he can maximize his returns and provide for the family.
A lot has been written and published recently about Dubai as well recently, most notably in the National Geographic magazine (February, 2014 edition). The lives of the migrant workers is arguably worse than the ones that they would lead back in their home towns. However, the lure of the money and the promise of a better life for their families back home takes them to places far and wide. Pictures from their lives are striking and thought provoking. Herded in a single dormitory with 10 others, sleeping on the floor or on whatever sheets they carried with them across the many thousands of miles, they make for a sorry picture. The only link that remains with them with their home land is a few minutes of stolen conversation every week or a glance at a photograph taken a few months or years back. They are transported to their work site in old, rickety buses. But they are better than the ones back home. At home, travel in a bus can sometimes mean on a bus, literally. Sights of people sitting on top of buses is not uncommon in India. In Dubai, they get a seat inside the bus. Work is hard and demanding. Falling sick is not an option. This is the story of Dubai and it is just as much the story of Bangalore. It is one of the many stories of India.