In a first of its kind attempt, Dalit Resource Centre of Allahabad University's prestigious Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute (GBPSSI) has been assigned the task of chronicling the cultural life of bhaiyyas of UP and Bihar, who migrated to cities like Mumbai and helped them transform into what they are today.
"It would be for the first time that soulful folk songs, free spirited dances and laughter-filled raunchy plays of our own Bhojpuri speaking UP bhaiyyas and Bihari Babus who have helped fuel factories and build skyscrapers in metros and other industrial hubs of India will properly be documented and stored," said prof Badri Narayan, who will be heading the three-year project.
"We would be making an audio-visual archive containing CDs, VCDs and audio cassettes of these songs, nautankis, dances and folk paintings, recorded and stored through field visits to cities like Surat, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai where the Bhojpuri speaking workers are earning their livelihood," said Narayan on the Rs. 1.25 crore project titled 'Migration and Cultural Traditions of Bhojpuri Region - A Research and Documentation Programme'.
Funded by Jamsetji Tata Trust, Mumbai, the exercise will also entail making a documentary film around migration, hosting a photo-exhibition centered on the theme of migration at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai and later on in Allahabad as well as publishing a resource book on migration.
"This study will attempt to place this cultural tradition, which can be called the Pardesia Cultural Tradition within the broader cultural tradition of the Bhojpuri region known as Bidesia folk tradition that evolved during the colonial period,” he said. “While on the one hand the study will help create awareness about the cultural heritage of the Bhojpuri migrants who are looked upon as mere labourers at their destination points, on the other it will also give an insight into the continuity and change that has taken place in the new cultures due to the migration," he explained.
The social scientist said that while it is the economic need that drives these people out from their native lands, it is their culture, which helps them to emotionally connect with their homeland and keep them rooted.
"After a hard day's gruelling labour when they get together in slums and ghettoes and sing songs together they are able to mitigate some of the pain of separating from their native villages and loved ones.
For the people who are left behind in the homeland too, like the wives, children, parents and siblings, this cultural repertoire provides solace and helps them surmount the pain and anguish at the going away of their loved one. It is to study and document this cultural heritage of such Bhojpuri speaking migrant labourers that this project is being undertaken," shared Narayan while adding that the GBPSSI project on migration coincides with 150th anniversary of abolition of slavery and 140 years of the arrival of Indians in Suriname and Netherlands that is being presently celebrated.