In 2017, we were contacted by Manisha Anil Rita to contribute to a small independent publication called Carry On. A student at the Art Institute Chicago at the time, Manisha had already published an issue of Carry On around stories of travel. This was the Migration issue of Carry On. Manisha was looking for stories and experiences from people who have moved to different parts of the world. We quickly started brainstorming ideas of what stories we could share.
What followed was a three part contribution– a photo essay of objects we brought with us, a short story about loneliness in a new land and a personal essay reminiscing trips to a local Shani bazaar.
Looking back in 2020
As we write these words in July 2020, the word migration only brings to mind vivid images and stories of Indian workers struggling to return home in dire conditions precipitated by a swift, poorly executed lockdown due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Many lives have been lost on these journeys, with yet others struggling to survive on meagre meal donations and their savings.
Some might think the word migrant in this context is a misnomer since they are all Indians moving within India. And that, in our opinion, is correct. But these Indians, referred to as Migrant Workers, are internal or domestic migrants. Much like those from a higher income bracket, they moved where jobs were available.
We, city dwellers, have enjoyed their labours while denying them any right of ownership of the cities they have nurtured.
Migration through the COVID-19 lens
Images of migrants walking with their belongings – treasured, functional pieces that were part of the homes they’d just left – have forced us to take a hard look at everything that we deem essential. When both of us moved to new cities on different continents, we had the comfort of carrying a certain guaranteed allowance of luggage the airline would transport with the promise of delivery at our destination. That allowance was ample and meant we could plan and stuff it to the seams.
Of the things we brought, some are featured in this photo essay below. These functional, beautiful objects provide vignettes of the kitchens we left behind – those run by our mothers and grandmothers. But now, in 2020, when millions have been suddenly stripped of their basic rights, our indulgences seem frivolous. Sentimental to a fault.
This is the first post in a three part series. We thought it was timely to share these stories now, since we have had the privilege of migrating without concerns for safety, hunger and livelihood.
Each day since the lockdown was announced and the exodus began has provided opportunities for reflection – refocusing our needs, examining our privilege and apathy. Even though the news cycle may have changed several times since then, the crisis still looms.
A Masaal daan, a Barnee, a Chakla belan set and a Hamaam Dasta/Okhli: some of the things we featured in this photo essay on Migration in 2017. We wonder how many such things people either carried with them or left behind during their mass exodus from Indian cities in 2020.
These images might reflect some of what you see around you or stir memories. But we hope you will look to the agency You have to exert changes on the ground.
As a food blog, we find it hard to look away while this humanitarian crisis unfolds amidst a pandemic, forcing many to deal with hunger.
How can WE help?
If at all, it makes you curious and concerned about what migration and hardship could actually mean in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consider some of the resources mentioned below.
Trust for Reaching the Unreached or TRU (Gujarat)
Jan Swasthya Sahyog (Chhattisgarh)
Sambhawna Trust Clinic (Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh)
Stay informed; share reliable news
To follow stories from the ground we would recommend following some of these sources; freelance photographers and independent news websites: