When the results of the Fifteenth Indian Census were declared, in March 2011, it became evident that the urban sections of Bangalore were the most populated in Karnataka, growing at a decadal rate of 46.68 per cent. In their analysis of the data conducted soon after the numbers were revealed, social scientists KNM Raju and Madheswaran S of the city’s Institute for Social and Economic Change suggested that migrants to Bangalore constituted a significant portion of this burgeoning population. In the two years since the consummation of that official enumeration, the city has continued to draw a gush of migrants: deposited on its shores by every manner of mechanised transport.
In attempting to create a fragmentary record of this daily arrival for Time Out’s photography special, Selvaprakash L clambered onto trains, boarded buses and journeyed to the airport in Devanahalli, asking each intended subject* to pause for a picture and a breviloquent summary of their journey, a soupçon of a life.
In doing so, he discovered that the air-conditioned coaches in trains, much like the airport bus shuttles, foster exclusion, where people plug into their iPods and shut out fellow-passengers. Buses, he was told, don’t engender neighbourly feelings either: if the onboard movie doesn’t silence conversations, the hermetic confines of curtained sleeping berths force strangers to remain strangers. In contrast, the general compartment of a train, he ascertained, is like a commune: cards are dealt, food distributed, cover drives analysed, and, at the journey’s end, phone numbers exchanged, and lives invented.
*Barring two, the travellers we encountered refused to provide us full names.
Documenting the city’s immigrants