18 January, 2021

An Interrupted Migration

The flight of Big Little Governance Ideas northwards has ceased

Illustration by Sorit
An Interrupted Migration

Why did Chandragupta Maurya go to the south? Legend has it that the emperor of Magadha travelled to Karnataka to spend his last days as a Jain ascetic. A long, curious journey, considering that the cradle of Jainism was very much nearer home. Modern historians conjecture that a great famine might have driven him from what is modern-day Bihar to the southern limits of his empire. Migration from the north to the south in search of food still continues, and is strikingly visible in the rural-urban continuum that is Kerala: ayyos rent the air every time the Oriya ironing man, the Gurkha watchman or the carpenter from Midnapore don’t turn up. And in empty nests left by expat children, old Malayalis lie dying, listening to Nepali or Bhojpuri, the language of their caregivers. In Tamil Nadu, the position is similar, but for another reason. An overtly welfarist state’s munificence is providing free food, clothing, shelter, schooling, medicare and even entertainment (colour TVs) to the poor. With most of their needs met, the locals probably...



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