These stories began as individual projects by the students of Class 11 (academic year 2019), St Joseph’s Boys’ High School, Bengaluru who interviewed migrants from rural areas now working as security guards, drivers, domestic workers, construction labourers, and in other informal sector jobs in Bengaluru.
The projects conform to the Economics syllabus of the Indian School Certificate (ISC-12) exam and were designed by their teachers in collaboration with PARI Education. Each project records the economic and social impact of migration and traces the hope-filled journeys of people from rural India who were forced to leave their homes because of falling agricultural incomes and rising debt.
In these profiles you read about migrants who have journeyed from rural areas of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and even Nepal, to Bengaluru city.
PARI Education is publishing selected stories from the ‘Profiles of migrants’ project in three parts. Part II contains the six stories listed below:
- ‘Drought is the reason I left home’ by Ujjawal Banka
- ‘I always wanted to become an artist’ by Ekta Bafna
- ‘I want to work so I never have to take another loan’ by Carmen Xavier
- ‘Many times I feel lonely and miss home’ by Anushka Doshi
- ‘We migrate to help our family grow’ by Angeline Lobo
- ‘I visit my village for my children’s birthdays’ by Disha Bajaj
‘Drought is the reason I left home’
I am not big or famous in any way. I come from Majhaura Balanpati, a small village in Bihar where my family owns a little less than a bigha of land [one bigha is 0.40 acres].
We do farming and grow potatoes, onions and rice. We can only plant rice if there is sufficient rainfall. Many times the rains have failed; we would have no rains or we would have to deal with floods – either way we would not have food to eat. We also plant wheat, but wheat doesn’t need standing water like rice, so we manage to get some harvest.
Three years ago I told my brothers to dig a borewell, so we spent 12,000 rupees and dug one; we got water at 40 feet. Now, we use that water to grow wheat and some vegetables. We own a few cows, goats and oxen – to provide us with milk and help us in farming.
When I was nine years old, our house caught fire and all our land documents were destroyed in the fire. Ever since then, there have been a lot of fights between my uncles and my father about our land; it’s a headache and I’m glad to get away. We have to travel to Madhubani, 60 kilometres away to sort it out. Maybe this time I will get it done. The main reason I left home was to earn and send home some money.
When I first arrived in Bengaluru with my brothers, we slept on footpaths till we found a place to stay. It took us a week to find jobs and a place to stay.
I found my first job as a domestic worker in Shivajinagar, where I earned 1,800 rupees a month. I worked there for almost nine years, and was provided with shelter and food. Today, I work as house help in Banashankari and earn 13,000 rupees along with shelter and food.
I got married in 2007 to Leeladevi and she helps my parents and looks after our children in Bihar. Two of my three daughters attend school; my youngest is just two years old. My eldest daughter Sunita is in Class 1 at a private school for which I pay 3,000 rupees a month. My middle daughter Sapna attends the nursery at the same school.
I travel to Bihar by the Bagmati Express, and a one way ticket costs around 520 rupees. I leave Bengaluru on Saturday morning and reach Bihar on Monday evening. From the station, I catch a bus to my village 90 kilometres away.
My two brothers also work in Bengaluru: my younger brother, Surendar Yadav, works as a security guard in Vijaynagar, earning about 12,000 rupees a month. He is married and has two sons. My elder brother, Upendar Yadav, is an auto driver and earns around 14,000 rupees a month. He is also married and has three daughters, all of whom go to school.
I am grateful that my brothers and I are not drunkards like many people in my village. I miss my children and our local festivals. In the village we live a simple life and eat ordinary dal and rice. Over time our food habits have changed and we have developed a taste for rich and heavy meals of biriyani and kabab.
I save 10,000 rupees a month and I send it all home. They need every rupee there. I am well looked after here.
Reporter: Ujjawal Banka
‘I always wanted to become an artist’
My name is Shivraj and I paint houses for a living in Bengaluru. I have been trying to sell some of my land in our village in Ratnagiri district, and despite dropping the price, no one wants to buy it.
We own six acres and once grew mangoes, wheat, rice and ragi for consumption [not for sale]. Over the years we could afford to only use three acres for farming, and so I want to sell the rest. Large-scale farming requires funds for everything from fertilisers and irrigation to tractors and labour; I can’t afford it.
I own two cows and a buffalo, and sell milk and other milk products. All the amount earned from these sales is spent on the maintenance of the animals.
I moved to Bengaluru in 2003 after I completed Class 10 because there was no work in the village. I travelled to the city by Rani Chennamma Express along with a group of people from my village.
My family consists of my parents, wife and two children. I am the only earning member of the family. My father is 77 now and cannot work in the fields. We get 25 kilos of rice, 18 kilos of wheat and four litres of kerosene through the PDS ration shop. In the village, we have an informal bachat [savings] fund through which we are able to meet unforeseen expenses.
With my job in Bengaluru I am able to send about 12,000 rupees home every month for my parents’ medication and other family expenses. Every year, I return to the village to work on the land during sowing time [June to August].
When I came here, I first worked in a PAN card company, earning a salary of 2,000 rupees a month until the firm shut down and I was unemployed for some months. I then got a job with Asian Paints in 2004. I paint houses for eight hours a day and earn a daily wage of 600 rupees. For the same job in the village I would earn half as much, if I got work at all. I spend around 400 rupees on travel and food every day. My rent, water and electricity are paid for by the company.
Although I am earning well, the work is difficult as it requires that I climb dangerous scaffoldings and constantly inhale paint. I always wanted to become an artist and in my free time I sketch. I would sell my drawings but who will buy them?
I miss home and I visit my family at least three times a year, staying for at least 10 days during each trip. I will support my children in whatever they want to do. My older son studies in Class 1 and the younger one is in kindergarten; both attend a government school, which is free.
Like me, there are thousands of people who migrate to cities and towns in search of work and livelihoods. What motivates me is the chance of giving my sons a secure future so that they don’t have to go through the struggles I did.
Reporter: Ekta Bafna
‘I want to work so I never have to take another loan’
When I was 14 years old, my family sent me to work at a construction site for 120 rupees a day. I was studying in Class 9 in a government school in my village when I was pulled out and sent to work. After a year of working there I found the work very demanding and had a lot of pain, so I switched to working in a paddy field in my village; I earned a lower wage (80 rupees a day), but it was more comfortable.
My father Raja, 58, and mother, Sandhana Mary, 54, used to work on construction sites together; they no longer work because my mother is ill and my father drinks a lot.
I have three siblings – an older sister, Jhansi, 25, a younger brother, Das, 20, and my younger sister, Shilpa, 15.
My parents encouraged Jhansi to complete her BCom and she became a teacher. My brother Das studied till Class 12 and is now a vegetable vendor; Shilpa is now in Class 10. For some reason my parents considered only me as a burden, even though I took care of my younger siblings. I was the only one among us who was sent to work as a daily wage labourer at such a young age.
When I was 18 years old, I decided to move out of my village and go to Bengaluru. A friend from the village got me a full-time job here taking care of two dogs. I was one of many servants in a household that had four part-time servants and two full-time servants, including me. I worked here for two years, and got paid 7,000 rupees a month.
I had borrowed around 2 lakh rupees to pay for my sister Jhansi’s wedding and my father’s gambling debts. My father is an alcoholic and he gambled our house away; he rarely goes to work. My mother has been ill for the past year and cannot help in repaying the loan.
My brother and I had to work hard to get it back. I needed more money to repay these debts so I moved to another house where I now earn 14,000 rupees a month. It took my brother and me two years to pay the 2.5 lakh rupees that was needed to get our house back. Jhansi gets a much higher salary than I do because of her qualifications, but she does not help with the debt.
Sometimes I feel like my family takes me for granted. I want to work and be self-sufficient so I never have to take another loan from anyone.
Reporter: Carmen Xavier
‘Many times I feel lonely and miss home’
It has been eight years since I came from my village to Bengaluru because I wanted to earn enough money to educate my children.
Here I work on construction sites, loading and unloading bricks and mixing cement with my hands. I work and live on the site with people who I now consider my family, though we are not related. I spend the day surrounded by the smell of cement and mud; it’s a big change from the open fields of my village.
I earn over 30,000 rupees a month; [of that] I spend around 5,000 rupees on food. I save on rent as I live on the site. I send the remaining money home to my parents and my wife, and they use it for our fields and livestock – we have goats, buffaloes and a cow. I have a bank account in the city and the village, so money transfers are easy.
One of my brothers also works in Bengaluru and another brother manages things at home in the village. Working here [in the city] gives me an opportunity to save money. I go home once every two years. My friends and I travel together; we look for the cheapest tickets.
Back home, my family owns eight acres of land and we grow wheat, chillies, onions, sugarcane, peas, rice, moong dal and other crops. During the harvest period, we used to work for more than 10 hours a day, continuously for three months. We used hand pumps to draw water for farming. Over time the groundwater level has sunk, so it requires a lot of time and physical effort to get water.
In my village, we have a system where we lend and borrow from each other without charging interest and so for weddings, education and medical expenses, we avoid high interest rates and don’t have to borrow from anywhere else.
In Bengaluru, sometimes children throw stones at us and our contractor bosses are not kind. There are many times I feel lonely and miss home. I speak to my family and sometimes we get to see each other on video calls, after which I always feel better.
There is no good school in the village, so my wife, who has a bachelor’s degree, teaches my children at home. She also teaches my brother’s children because he and his wife work in the field all day. In my family, we are all educated – we have passed high school. We all want to work, earn and live well.
Reporter: Anushka Doshi
‘We migrate to help our family grow’
When I was growing up everyone knew me as the boy who loved climbing buildings and playing with sand. When I turned seven, I started helping my father on our farm. Our family has always grown corn.
At 19, I bought a plot of land and started growing my own corn crop. Our harvest was completely dependent on rainfall.
During the harvest season, I would work from 6 a.m. till noon – when it gets very hot in Raichur. Initially, my annual income from my land was 50,000 rupees. When the crops received rains on time, the yield would amount to about one lorry-load. There were two years when my annual income went up to about 70,000 rupees. But when there were no rains, the harvest would be very small and my earnings would not be sufficient.
When I was 22 years old I realised that I would have to leave my village as I was getting married. I had wanted to carry on my family tradition of farming, but I lost interest as my income was completely dependent on the rains. I wanted to earn more to support my family.
I now live in Bengaluru with my wife and our son. We both work as daily wage labourers on construction sites and we are able to get steady work. I earn 600 rupees a day and she earns 400 rupees a day. Our daily expenses come to around 300 rupees. I send some money to my parents in the village.
We go home during festivals and stay for a month. We catch the train. When we return, we bring back rice and jowar which are cheaper in the village.
The government should put in a lot more effort to develop rural areas. We leave our village not because we can’t live that life, we migrate to help our family grow. I miss family gatherings and going to the temple in the village. I came here [the city] to do well in life so I don’t want to go back.
Reporter: Angeline Lobo
‘I visit my village for my children’s birthdays’
My father and older brother had migrated from our village in Odisha to work as plumbers in Vadodara, Gujarat. I was a student in Class 10 when my father suddenly passed away.
I had to move to Gujarat to work with my brother and support our family. I was earning 1,200 rupees a month but after a few years I felt I needed to earn more so I took up a housekeeping job in a hotel; my earnings doubled. When I left that job I was earning 4,000 rupees a month. My brother Punachandra, 43, continues to work in Gujarat as a contractor for plumbers.
In a few years, I moved from Vadodara to Bengaluru because the hotel manager had a friend who told me about a job availability for a cook of a small family here.
I was given food, a place to stay and earned a salary of 5,000 rupees a month. I left after a few years and started working in a paper printing company in Chamrajpet, earning 7,000 rupees a month. The company had many other employees from Odisha so I made many friends. I moved again when I started working as a clerk in an office in Electronics City for 9,500 rupees a month.
In 2010, I went back to Odisha to get married to Sumithra, who is 10 years younger than me. In 2012, our daughter Aradhana was born. When she was two years old we left her with Sumithra’s parents in Odisha so that my wife could travel with me to Bengaluru to find a job. We both got jobs as cooks in an apartment complex – I worked in six houses earning 22,000 rupees; Sumithra worked in two houses, earning 5,000 rupees a month. We rented a house closeby and a year later when Sumithra was pregnant with our son Armaan, she left Bengaluru and returned to Odisha. Around that time I took a loan of 95,000 rupees from the manager of the apartment to build my house in the village. I repaid it in three years, even though I had moved away.
When my wife returned to the village, I changed my job and began working for a family of six as a full-time cook. I also cleaned vessels and ironed their clothes. I have a room and bathroom on the terrace. I earn 18,000 rupees a month and all my meals are taken care of by my employers. In the village, my wife Sumithra earns an income by selling vegetables she grows around our house. She sells vegetables like drumsticks, jackfruit and coconuts.
My daughter is studying in Class 1 at a school in the village. I put her in this school because it is close to home. The fees come up to 5,000 rupees a year. I want her to become a singer because everyone says she has a really good voice. I want my son to join the same school when he’s older.
I go home to my village at least twice a year and stay for 15 to 20 days. I usually time my visit around my children’s birthdays or a wedding in the village. I travel by the Prasanthi Express till Bhubaneshwar and then I change two buses to reach my home. It takes me almost five hours to reach home from the station.
On my off day, which is every alternate Sunday, I go out with my old friends from the printing company. We go to the market, malls, movies and parks to enjoy our break. I am happy in this job as I don’t have to work in multiple houses or worry about my accommodation and rent.
Reporter: Disha Bajaj
About the reporters
One of the first schools to bring PARI into the curriculum, St Joseph’s Boys’ High School, Bengaluru sent 137 girls and boys (girls are admitted to Classes 11 and 12) into the field to identify, interview and document migrants around them.
About the illustrator
Antara Raman is a recent graduate from the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru. Her graduating thesis, titled ‘Seeds as cyclic time’ aimed to explore the seed as a metaphor for time. Using real-life incidents, including farmer suicides and the growing clout of agri-business, she explored injustices towards farmers and how a world of plentiful food is utopian and unrealistic. Antara believes that the world of storytelling and illustration are symbiotic, and her work for PARI Education reflects that.