Voices of Migrants: Recession, South Asia and Everyday Life

In a certain city of the oil rich Persian Gulf, I encountered the recession due to the low oil prices first hand as I met a middle aged man fluent in Urdu, from the premier coastal commercial city, ‘selling pens’ to generate an income as the Tissue Uncles and Aunties do in Singapore, both certainly in a legal grey area. He mentioned that do lost his job a few months back and is sending his family back home in 20 days.

He asked me from where I came from, and I uttered Bombay and his eyes swelled as he said that he has been to Bombay as his maternal Uncle is still based there and his Mother was brought up in Bombay before Partition. His Uncle lives in Andheri. I was surprised to find a man from across the small stretch of water from Mumbai to Karachi, where once a regular ferry service ran know a lot about my hometown Bombay.

He was trying to sell a couple of pens. I rather wanted to pay for his lunch as it was the harsh heat of the afternoon and I just finished my lunch.

He was in office formal wear, indicative to education and middle class ethos. His Urdu was refined, and what came next broke my heart. He said ‘ I will use the money to buy milk for my children’

I struggled to respond cohesively and while walking back I thought, that this could have been me.

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