Satya-Sundar Middle Class Social Capital

Education for my generation and my fathers has been about social mobility and a job overseas is an escalator towards that- a good house, a car, savings, and a vacation are something which is desired as home markets are hyper competitive. A career professional is also an entrepreneur, the risks taken by my parents among other educated expats have been unprecedented. The idols we create are the virtues we wish to attain for our kids. Well done, Parag and Satya and Sundar.

Becoming a verb, is a work of action.

A Year in Writing (and Speaking/Reading) 2021

On the last day of November 2021- I guess it is a suitable time to chime in an annual ritual for my blog- the Year of Writing (and Reading) 2021.


This year started with an article on the Global Migrant Festival 2020 for The World of Apu (thanks to Ram and Anusha for numerous opportunities). Then, something significant happened that i moved back to Singapore for research during the pandemic which gives me many opportunities to write in terms of coursework assignments across 6 PhD level Human Geography modules (in total 40k words).

I wrote for the prestigious Russian-Qatari Platform – East East on Digital Emotionality (in a special issue on belonging) as a mode of belonging for the multigenerational migrant in the Khaleej. I participated in a panel discussion earlier in the year on a term I have conceptualized called as the ‘Desi Khaleeji’, a register for South Asian belonging in the Gulf, which I was critiqued and appreciated in equal measure (Shukran Jazeelan, Mira & Vani). I also got an opening to properly conceptualize the register in an essay, in a creative-critical book project on ‘Khaleeji-ness’ by Swalif Publishing House, from Abu Dhabi in September. Special thanks to the Swalif Collective Team for Aramex-ing me the hard copy to Singapore.

I wrote an Azaadi Day weekend short read for the Lokmaanya, a policy platform from Pune. I was also invited to contribute for a Foreign Policy Journal on a topic on ‘migrant space in Dubai as a site for diplomacy in the Khaleej’. Thank you very much Gauri for being so kind as always.

For the academic conference circuit, I spoke on the same weekend in late October for two conferences on Mobilities in Korea and an Indian Ocean History Workshop in Malaysia. The wonders of Zoom Conferencing where simultaneity is reality.

In November, I pitched in my two cents on bottom up ESG on a stakeholder consultation panel by a civil society organization in India. Thank you, Pradeep Sir for the invite.

I spent this year reading up on Human Geography and Gulf Studies, which is my research area. I also supported Migrant Worker Non-Profits in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as an advisor in the interstitial voids of my schedule, which fill my heart as a migration scholar.

Tinkerers.

Too many new start-ups and initiatives around, that fail a dime a dozen as synergies are not mapped in the ecosystem, the focus is not on the pain points nor on grinding it out by boot strapping. Sabko Unicorn banna hain ? How about tinkerers and operators, optimizers, anyone?

Cleanse to Make Space.

Today morning, I did what is an audit of one’s life- on a periodic basis; the humble Facebook list clean up as a reminder that both people and places do not remain constant and that one must be remove cache for our social configurations to find space to flourish.
Allow for freshness to inhabit, as if it’s a new terrain for them and for us, an opportunity to pivot, and reinvent.
I am grateful for all the people who read and follow my posts.

Transnational Khaleeji Hyderabadi Labour Mobilities: Thinking from Long Durée Tarikh

Hyderabad or the Deccan, has been a fluid imaginary with its distinctive Dakhani Tehzeeb (culture) which has had ripples across the Islamic Ummah. The formation of the Indian State, and the violent invasion of the Indian State, to integrate it in September 1948, is a watershed moment as a Muslim polity was brought into a Hindu majority state by the sheer dent of force. However, the long durée of Indian Ocean and Islamic Tarikh or History casts a long shadow over its people. The Hyderabadi Nizam was spread over many states of the south till Nanded in Maharashtra. The people of Hyderabad have a creole past with Hadhrami’s in present day Yemen to Habshi’s from Ethiopia serving in the army of the Nizam. The Nizam had close family ties with Ottoman Istanbul, as the political heart of the Muslim World and inter-married with the royals there. Traders from Ispahan and Tabez plied their goods in the region. The contemporary post-colonial history in our textbooks mask these long-term relationships throughout the Muslim World. Hyderabadi pilgrims have had a place in Hijaz for many centuries. The place of the Hyderabadi Muslim in the Indian popular imagination is one of the razakar, the anti-national who sought independence as Pakistan, and hence must be reduced to a stereotype to snatch away any valency of worth and perennially refracted through the Owaisi lens, the predominant political family in Hyderabad and one of the few articulate Muslim voices in contemporary Indian politics beyond the mould of the Sarkari Musselman.

As the place of the Hyderabadi Muslim has been neglected in Indian internal labour markets including the IT revolution within the very city of Hyderabad. However, the working-class Urdu speaking Hyderabadi Muslim rode on long durée social and familial networks to the Gulf, from Jeddah to Muscat to Kuwait City, to create employment options which were foreclosed to them through a particular configuration of Indian labour markets. The Hyderabadi Muslim sought work in the oil boom of the 1970’s and 80’s in all kinds of clerical and manpower jobs. Manpower recruitment job adverts were mainstream in Urdu language newspapers published from Hyderabad, which was the source of information for the community. These adverts were not unusual rather the routine as my parents found work in Muscat by applying to one of these adverts a few years later as teachers. The context of the time is important, as jobs in pre-liberalisation India were hard to find and a career in the Gulf was a ticket to middle class modernity with Tangs and Toblerone to find company with. Conservative Arab Islam with its characteristics were imported along with the remittances. The best Hyderabadi biryani is found in the Gulf with the best of chefs exported to restaurant there. Deccan is a common restaurant name in the Gulf. The comforting biryani after Jumma Namaz is something I grew up with. I studied with scions of many Hyderabad families with intergenerational linkages to Oman.

The transnational Hyderabad is forged through its migrants and intermarriages with the Arabs. A lot of local Khaleeji citizens have mothers from Hyderabad, the fact of which they hide because of the politics of nasab or tribal genealogy in the Gulf. The racialised nature of Khaleeji hierarchies can be seen in Hyderabad as people who work in the Gulf are considered wealthier, however in the gulf they are clubbed as Indians despite their Muslim upbringing. Many Arabs and Arab speaking Africans in universities in Hyderabad to the present day.

The Indian Ocean History and connections with the Global Ummah (via the Khaleej) from Hyderabad yield jobs and financial returns home, even though the Indian Muslim is fighting for a legitimate voice in the pan national polity of the country.

(This blog is thanks to Vanshika Singh and the writing forum for graduate students at NUS Geography)