Meeting with Pankaj in Kozhikode : who migrated from Azamgarh


On the evening of March 11, 2024, as I walked along Kozhikode beach, my inquisitive gaze followed the ebb and flow of the Arabian Sea's waves. I couldn't help but notice the myriad of creatures drifting in with the tide, alongside human detritus like plastic bottles and food waste, posing a threat to the delicate balance of marine life.

It was fascinating to witness how certain birds adeptly seized their sustenance amidst the rhythmic movement of the water's edge.

The avian inhabitants of the beach seemed amicable, engrossed in their task of foraging for food. While the current gently pulled me along, I found solace in swimming against it, a reflection of my innate disposition.

Despite dealing with turbulence often, these days I'm more aware of my surroundings in public places, even in spots that might feel private like train compartments or on flights. Maybe I'll talk about the growing hate against certain identities some other time.

Oh no, there I was in the Arabian Sea, when I noticed a young man selling Betel leaf, or "Paan," a popular delicacy in the Indian subcontinent found almost everywhere in the region. Different places have their own variations of paan.

I was more curious about the young man himself than what he was selling. Mentioning "Paan, Paan" was just a way to break the ice. Approaching him, I asked about the paan and requested a sweet one for myself. Then I casually inquired, "Hey, where are you from? You're not from Calicut?" At first, he seemed a bit anxious, but as we talked, he gradually became more comfortable opening up to me.

He introduced himself as Pankaj (name changed), an unskilled migrant worker from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh. I engaged him in conversation, eager to understand the journey that led him to "God's own country" and the differences between working here versus back in his village (Desh). As he grew more comfortable, he shared insightfully that there are group migrations from his region to Kerala for various types of work, ranging from daily wage labor in construction and household chores to becoming masons and other trades.

These flow of workforce for the survival of themselves and to sustain their family back to the source of migration. I enquired, why don't they work in their region? The response was for better wages and respect, he happily told me, that here in Kerala labour wage starts from INR 500 to 600 hundred. That is certainly much higher than from his place. He was confident and calm; there was no mischief in getting fixed wages after putting in hard bodily labour. He can communicate in Malayalam (മലയാളം) with local people. Enthusiastically, he narrated, Bhai (Brother), here every one is educated and working. In between, he prepared Paan for me. I thank him with a friendly gesture.  

It is indeed remarkable to chance upon an individual such as Pankaj hailing from Azamgarh. This is not new in the human civilization. These migratory trajectories, I observed among inhabitants of eastern India towards the southern regions represent a relatively recent phenomenon. Historically, these populations tended to gravitate towards locales such as Bengal, Assam, and occasionally Kathmandu in pursuit of sustenance and opportunities. However, a discernible shift has been noted post-1990, with an increasing number of individuals redirecting their migration patterns towards regions including Punjab, Mumbai, and Delhi.



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