The Eleventh Edition of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest
Monday, November 16th to Sunday, November 22nd 2020

Virtual Festival
Real Books

Live on YouTube, Facebook,
Twitter & Instagram

The Mouth Of The Shark

  • Friday, 20th Nov
  • 7:45 pm - 8:45 pm IST

Social injustice has flared up as a major symptom of Covid 19 in India. The lockdown decreed to try and control the pandemic rendered innumerable city and town workers unemployed, unpaid, unable to rent or eat, and transportless. With no other choice, they started walking thousands of kilometres, parched and hungry under the burning summer sun, to go back to their villages, many accompanied by frail and starving family members. Some never made it, others eventually stumbled to their village border, often to be met with hostility – possible carriers of a deadly infection; unexpected extra mouths to feed. These were all people who were the fuel that ran the towns and cities: factory workers, construction labour, electricians, plumbers, delivery boys, shop assistants, newspaper vendors, sellers of fruit and vegetables, laundrymen, eatery cooks and waiters, tea boys, taxi drivers, domestic staff: all of whom arrived from who knew where each morning and removed themselves to who knew where each night. All of whom suddenly became “migrants”. What do you do when your land becomes “the mouth of a shark”. What policies, failures and inefficiencies let down those who support the weight of our cities, when they most needed support. Is the existence of an urban worker inevitably precarious. Is it possible to work towards ensuring a safety net. Surely these are questions that merit urgent attention – and answers.


Chinmay Tumbe

Chinmay Tumbe is a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and the author of India Moving: A History of Migration.

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Sonia Shah

Sonia Shah is a science journalist and prize-winning author.

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Naresh Fernandes

Naresh Fernandes is the editor of He is the author of City Adrift and Taj Mahal Foxtrot.

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