Integrative Filaments: Travails and Togetherness Among Migrant Workers in Delhi
Shankar RamaswamiO. P. Jindal Global University
In this paper, I explore the experiences and discourses of migrant workers in Delhi, drawing on fieldwork conducted in a metal factory in the Okhla Industrial Area. I focus on the vocabularies and practices of Naresh Singh, an adivasi worker from Jharkhand. I begin with a discussion of Naresh’s experiences of childhood, migration, illnesses, and the tensions of working in factories in Delhi. I describe his social dealings with close relatives, neighbors, and co-workers in the factory. In these dealings, one witnesses insularities and aversions to do with caste and religious identities, but also empathetic closeness, fellowship, and conviviality, crossing insular boundaries. In these latter interactions, migrants might be seen to weave integrative filaments in the social fabric (tana bana) of their worlds, which draw people together, against egoism and hostility, and enable them to survive, forge fragile social dwellings, and experience elements of a good life in their present, difficult existence.