A few days ago,
before the mysterious fever with aches and pains like I have never had in my life--which miraculously disappeared in 24 hours--and beforeI walked around the uber-congested shopping areas of the infamous Ranganathan Street. In the heart of traditional Chennai.
the horrible experience of traveler's diarrhea--my first in all these years of traveling in the US and different countries, including India,
I was shocked to hear languages and dialects that I am sure were not from the Dravidian south, nor were there any Hindi words. I couldn't pick up any Bengali sing-song either. In the heart of traditional Chennai!
Even more shocking was to see people who were clearly not from the Dravidian south, nor from the Hindi Belt. From the northeastern parts. Walking around casually in the heart of traditional Chennai!
Another day, my brother and I were in an autorickshaw when the driver pulled into a fuelling station--an LPG fuelling station. As the driver pushed his vehicle along in the long line, another auto driver attempted to cut in. The station attendant came charging and let out yells--in Hindi! The guy obviously was from another part of India, and was working here in the traditional Chennai, and hadn't learnt the local language to yell in Tamil! Hilarious it was. And one more evidence of the India that is slowly changing and mixing. I call it Indianizing.
People from other parts of India moving to Chennai is easy to understand. It is a combination of demographics and economics: economic growth rates are not enough in areas with high fertility rates, whereas Chennai and the Dravidian south are experiencing economic growth while the fertility rates have fallen well below replacement levels.
My ground-level observations match up with this report:
Internal migrants in India are expected to touch 400 million in the 2011 census, over half the global figure of 740 million and almost twice as many as China's estimated 221 million.A third of the country's population are internal migrants. What a phenomenal change from even two generations ago!
According to the report, internal migrants faced discrimination as 'outsiders', which excluded them from access to legal rights, public services and social protection programmes accorded to residents. This is despite the migrants providing cheap labour and typically doing the most dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs that locals do not want to do. Far from being a burden on society, migrants' cheap labour provides a subsidy and contributes to the national GDP, stated the report. Moreover, remittances from migrants lead to increased expenditure on health and education helping human capital formation.To be viewed, discriminated, as "outsiders" is not an unusual experience for migrants--internal or international. Change from the old is not easy for us humans to handle. But, as this migrant will attest, we migrants are a hardy bunch. I am sure even the Hindi-yelling LPG gas station attendant will survive and prosper--even in the heart of traditional Chennai!