As we travel through three of the largest cities in India (Bangalore, Delhi, and Hyderabad) there are a few things all have in common. In comparison to the Twin Cities, each place is more smelly, dirty, has everything for sale right on the street, always-visible beggars, and lots of people wherever you go. As a person who is from a small Minnesotan suburb of only 20,000 maximum people, it is hard for me to imagine a life in any of these cities much less living there for longer than a week. So, how is it that these people all come to live in the urban areas of the country? What brings them in and what keeps them there? Do they have many other options?
There are a couple explanations I can think of as to why people flock to the cities in India. The first reason is that they have been displaced and improperly re-settled, losing their stake in the land they once had and unable to sufficiently begin again if they are even given land. These people could be displaced by the numerous dam projects or any number of weather-related calamities that might afflict them and cause them to be incapable of supporting their family. These people then head to the cities with hopes of finding employment or another way to attain the money they need to live.
Another reason brings me back to the time we spent in Kerala with the farmers of an agricultural self-help group. These men expressed a concern that they work hard to win money so they can provide a better life for their children and send them to school. The education many offspring receive can lead them to the city toward higher education at universities and jobs in urban, developing sectors. If these people find employment they and their future generations will inhabit the cities as their forefathers continue to reside in the rural areas and then die off with fewer or no children to replace them at the farming business.
While spending time in a few of the more rural parts of India, I have noticed that a hierarchy is more evident to me than in the urban areas. One reason why people may stay in the city once they’ve come is that they may find a way to have more of an identity outside their caste in a place made up of more diverse people where they don’t have to follow village traditions. Having grown up in a smaller village some people may be so strictly put in their place in that community and this would be a chance for a person to escape that confining position and negative associations thereof. Another reason is that once a person experiences the conveniences of more western technology, why would they want to go back to the back breaking labor and insecurity of the farmer’s life? After a session of yoga, Dr. S. K. asked me why I gave up my comfy life in the US to learn about issues in India. He legitimately couldn’t fully understand giving up luxuries for a comparably more rustic lifestyle and it’s possible many people who migrate to the cities think along the same lines.
I am not sure if all the people in the city actually have the option to leave. First of all, it’s scary to move away from a lifestyle you know to one you don’t know and there is an overall great value put on family. To leave the physical location of one’s family is not something I’ve seen or heard much of as most people I talk with on the streets are born and raised in one area of this country. It’s also possible that people are unable to afford travelling to another part of India and with so many people and so much land grabbing going on it is unlikely that there will even be land for people who would seek to escape the hustle and bustle. I’ve seen many poor people in both rural and urban areas of India and am wondering if I have seen proportionately more in either. If a person has a good deal of money they might be able to escape the business of the cities, however, the general feeling I been getting is that the city is where people want to be. In the US the place to be, if you can afford it, is the suburbs yet in France it is the center districts of the cities themselves where the more affluent people live, so I am wondering which place is most desired for the Indian.