There are writing projects which have staggered from 2012, with these projects piling up into massive amounts of field notes over the years. In 2017 I managed to complete a poetry collection, which is on my laptop somewhere unpublished, hoping to get a publisher or an agent to read it.
The original book project has metamorphosed into different forms, but the spine remains the same- a non fiction narrative in to the travels and the conversations of a migrant, who calls the various neighbourhoods in 4 cities, kind of home, if not the idea of it. I am fascinated by how the margins of the city, helm the core- the taxiwallah, the auto wallah, the corner store, the eatery and the stories from their journeys- the family from North Bengal running a thela in Gurgaon or the Lucknowi Barber in Muscat to the Dhobiwallah in Bur Dubai, these are visible people with muted voices restricted to the transaction.
The role of the digital and how the margins negotiate the technology in their lived experience to articulate and emote is essential as well as charming. The ability to network for their micro businesses on their smart phones has increased the ability to seek information that was previously the preserve of the intellectual or the bureaucratic realm.
I interviewed a series of autowallahs during 2012-13 in Mumbai during the construction of the metro in Saki Naka, Andheri area and the most insightful of feedback on urban infrastructure was garnered.
But, who will capture these voices? On the other hand, is the migrant in the GCC is ever asked his opinion.
The act of writing is indulgence but also of representation. In this hyper data era, how we write matters, as it will take no time to convert words in to the black box of the digital archive.