My writing practice is undergirded by the ethic of representation and recovery, a response to the chaos of the everyday mayhem where where things seems just about ‘normal’. Writing ethnographic archives is the core of my written word artistic practice. Long term projects are painstakingly hard, takes a lot of time, yet the series of conversations with Autowallahs and Cabbies are a glimpse in to urban life, entrepreneurship, tech innovation and the view from below. It is a chronicle of agency more than any other tangential impulse.
A section of people called migrants spend most of their lives away from their families and country to build, support and teach other societies whom they adopt. My parents have done that, for twenty five plus years, where your adopted home, is lost within no time when your job finishes, you retire and you head back to a country that you have left in the pink of your youth, a country which you do not recognise anymore. Millions of Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and especially Filipinos build other countries across the Middle East and Southeast as well as North America (paramedics in the United States especially nursing professionals).
Anthony Bourdain’s anthropological enterprise ‘Parts Unknown’, where there is more B Roll, than actual time eating and cooking food, in its episode on the Philippines got me teared up, where it focused on the flight of the overseas Filipino Worker, sending balikbaliyan, the Christmas parcel, to make sure that their gifts make them real and relevant to their families, during a season of bonding in this overwhelmingly Catholic nation of 80 million people, of which 10 million are OFW’s.
I grew up in Muscat, next door to a Filipino Family which deeply liked their karaoke singing on a weekend eve. Shared emotions and experiences have a certain ingrained pathos and commonality. The subaltern diaspora communities from Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road to the Malls of Dubai, have a common end, serving the families left behind.
It was lovely speaking earlier in the day to a Nepalese chef and staff from Pokhara in a restaurant in Langkawi who have worked in Mainland China/Punjabi by Nature in Cyber Hub\New Friends Colony in the National Capital Region, India. They spoke about remittances, fluctuating exchange rates and below par work with respect to their earlier work in India.
The Nepalese have a massive diasporic community in Malaysia, engaged in restaurant sector work. Migration phenomenon always intersects in a traveler’s life. Globalization which is necessary, and not necessarily evil.