The Migrant Worker Family

Posted by Dev Baul - 21/05/21 at 07:05 am

The Migrant Worker Family

Corona has turned out to be pretty much an equal-opportunity affliction in that it has not discriminated between religions, castes, genders, or social hierarchies. But there has been a marked variance in the way lives of the haves and the have-nots have been affected by the pandemic. Urban poor, mostly migrant workers have been worst affected. Loss of livelihood, lack of transport, and desertion by society at large underwrote their despair. In their desperation they started walking for home—some reached, few fell on the way.

Using my privileges, I managed to escape the lockdown-driven cooped-up existence in Kolkata and go to my all-time go-to getaway–Shanti Niketan. The walks I undertook were serene, quiet, and eerie at the same time. In Kala Bhavan premises, usual tourists were conspicuously absent around Ramkinkar Baij’s Santhal Family.

Santhal Family, sculpted by Ramkinkar Baij in 1938 is widely considered to be the first modernist sculpture in India. It depicts a father with a child carried in a basket, a mother with another child on her left flank, and a dog from a Santhal family carrying their scant possessions and going in search of a  new life—uncannily similar to the images of migrant worker families moving back from cities to their villages on foot. It was as if Ramkinkar had some oracular vision to foresee events that were to unfold eighty years down the line.


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9 Responses to “The Migrant Worker Family”

  1. Pramit says:
    May 23rd, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    I love how your keen sense of observation led to this post!

  2. Shyamal Mazumder says:
    May 24th, 2021 at 3:18 am

    My humble appreciations.

  3. Dhruva Sen says:
    May 24th, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    What an insight! Loved it.

  4. A N Rao says:
    May 24th, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    very poignant Baul …. their lives truly turned upside down and what they would be when the pandemic ends is an absolutely open question ..

  5. Ramprasad G says:
    May 27th, 2021 at 11:22 am

    Baul – very apt visual for your well written blog which pithily captures the trauma of migrant workers.

  6. Shouvanik Dey says:
    October 3rd, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    Very thought provoking piece! 🥲

  7. Arabinda Banerjee says:
    October 6th, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Nice post! Haven’t seen the sculpture … look forward to visit sometime.

  8. B V Ram says:
    December 14th, 2021 at 1:26 am

    Excellent poignant piece.!!!!
    Shows your great sense of observation and
    empathy towards fellow human beings.
    And Shanti Niketan is no stranger to this
    Wonderful human trait….

  9. Aali Pant says:
    January 24th, 2022 at 7:46 pm

    Lovely observation Dev Da. Says a lot about the empathy you carry. I am literally in awe of the metaphoric resemblance.

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