Shazia Salam
BETICKET MUSAFIR (NO TICKET, WILL TRAVEL) by By Subuhi Jiwani. Translated by Bharat Tripathi. Cover design by Tanvi Parulkar. Edited by Seema & Bharat Tripathi Karadi Tales, 2022, 62 pp., INR 80.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Beticket Musafir is a collection of stories about the harsh lives of migrant labourers in India. Chandra Shekhar’s life is a story of hope, love, and longing. He learns about the practice of travelling on trains without tickets from another young man like himself. Desperate for work and needing to save every penny for his family, he often contemplates taking the risk of traveling ticketless, knowing that getting caught by a ticket checker could lead to fines. Despite the disappointment of not being picked up for work due to perceived lack of physical strength, Chandra continues to hold onto dreams of better days.
Aruna, a young girl, resides with her grandmother while her parents work as construction labourers in Kochi. She eagerly anticipates travelling to the city during vacations with her aunt and uncle. However, the journey involves crowded buses and ticketless travel. Despite losing her slipper in the commotion, Aruna looks forward to reuniting with her mother, with the promise of a new pair of slippers. This story touches on the themes of separations and reunions. For children living apart from their parents for extended periods, the experience is far from child’s play. They cherish the moments when they can be reunited with their loved ones.
Balu, a daily wage earner experiences hunger pangs after exhausting workdays. During periods of job scarcity, Balu has to endure sleepless nights due to hunger. When fortunate enough to find work, he labours on tar roads under the scorching sun on the city’s outskirts. Balu has a deep love for poetry and once pursued a B.A. in Tamil Literature, though he had to leave it unfinished due to financial constraints. He finds solace in reciting the poems of Sri Sri Rao, a modern poet of the masses, which help him endure the demanding days of hard physical labour.
Sadia’s story highlights the life of a young mother who nurtures her passion for needlework despite her demanding role as a construction labourer. Sadia engages in strenuous labour during the day, lifting heavy loads as a labourer. However, she eagerly looks forward to her time at night when she can indulge in her love for embroidery. She stitches blankets from colourful fabric scraps and creates dolls from tennis balls and beads to sell, thereby earning extra income for her family.
These stories shed light on the harsh reality faced by countless Indian migrant labourers. Driven by uncertainty and poverty they are compelled to travel across State lines and even out of their home State in search of livelihoods. Theirs is a solitary and arduous struggle that deserves recognition and empathy.