Migration is a phenomenon that is happening since times unknown. Till permanent human settlements started, there was hardly any difference between human migration and migration by other species. Out of different species, birds are known to travel long distances for the reason of saving themselves from severe weather conditions. The species who could not fly had limitations of how much they could move to overcome harsh conditions. Humans must have also faced the same problems as these species.
Polar bears handle the harsh winters differently. Nature has designed their body in such a way that they can prepare themselves in advance. The polar bears go into hibernation when the severe winter conditions begin. They go to sleep literally in caves, up to four months. They store enough food in their body and can go without food during hibernation. No other species hibernate like the bears, as per my knowledge. Turtles and other species are known to go to specific spots to lay their eggs, every year. Probably they “find” their “safe” area to lay eggs.
Many birds like flamingos are known to travel thousands of km to protect themselves from harsh weather. It’s God’s design that has given the birds instincts and “GPS” to fly far away from their natural habitat. Human migration is a different phenomenon altogether. When did the human race move away from their nomadic phase? Once they started designing and creating various modes of transport, the migration process started. But the reasons for human migration very rarely have been the weather. In very few cases, human still moves to different locations during harsh weather conditions. It may be snow, rains or the harsh Sun! But now the reasons are many and varied. New ideas for migration keep getting added. There are so many aspects to non human migration, maybe I will write separately on that subject.
In migration between humans and other species, the main difference is the feelings, human bonds and the alienation that humans feel. For humans, in the initial phase, migration started from adventure, to look for El Dorado, education, for jobs! Europeans travelled to the east to take over colonies to spread their empire. Reasons like political asylum or refuge to different countries to run away from wars or despotic regimes have now been added. Humans don’t mind going to places where the weather is harsh for improving their careers and leading better lives! My current sojourn made me think about how humans deal with the mental aspect and social aspect of life. It made me think about the assimilation of humans with the new society. It is about the social aspects of keeping in touch with friends and families back home. It is about keeping your own culture and taking part in the new culture.
Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first well–known “migrant” who went to the US to take medical education. I can’t even imagine how she must have managed it in those days. Anandibai died young at the of 22 in the year 1887. So naturally, we do not know what she went through in those days and how she handled it. Compared to the current level of communication, in those days, there was zero communication or as good as no communication. How must she have handled the initial phase after reaching the US? Did she have enough money to eat every day? Did she have sufficient warm clothing for the winter? I am sure she must have been a vegetarian, so what food did she eat in those days?
Especially in the US and Canada, migration is nothing new. The countries came into being by the migration of the British, the Spanish and the French to that vast landmass– overcoming and initially killing “the American Indians”! These countries came into being with war and migration — the main aim of reaching the landmass was to form the respective colonies.
Since early 50 s of the last century, many people have been moving around the world, but a large percentage move to the US for obvious reasons. In olden times the communication method must have been by postal mail, in today’s language snail mail. Telephones were rare in India, so communicating back home must have been difficult. I know of someone who called his parents on the phone (parents had a phone at home in India) only once in fifteen years when his twins were born!
Jaya was in the US for one year for her MS in 1980-81. We did not have a phone at home in Pune. Jaya would send me a letter to fix the time on which she would call me at someone’s house. We considered it lucky if we got connected within one hour of the set time.
With path–breaking changes in communication methods, today it is effortless to remain in touch with each other. These changes help the migrated persons to be in touch with back home, and the emotional umbilical cord remains intact, helping to settle down quickly. But I have known of extreme cases of the communication spectrum.
A classmate moved to the US in ’70 s of the last century. He has travelled to India only once during these 45 plus years. I did not have the heart to ask him the reason, but from the discussion I had with him did not indicate any specific reasons– I did not probe. I know of a family who was at the other extreme. Their daughter moved after marriage. The parents would talk to her on the video chat for two to two and a half hours every day for the first five years. I don’t want to become judgmental in this, but when are you going to make your children independent? I know that this same girl would have two to two and a half hours discussion or much less with her parents in a week, when she was in India.
Migrated families have their practical difficulties. As they grow, so do their children. Those who have managed to remain connected with back home, they come for marriages and deaths in the families. That also later becomes difficult as they move up the ladder in their careers. They also want to take their family holidays in different parts of the world. Their connect becomes weak depending on case to case.
Many people of my age now come back home to be away from harsh winters from November to March. But this is going to happen in people of my generation. How much connect will remain after we are gone is difficult to predict! I always wonder how much relate will the third–generation Panvalkar or a Kulkarni will have with India?
Frequency of coming “home” starts reducing from one year to two years to maybe even five years. Such things can happen when parents back home don’t die early enough and get restrictions on travel. When these physical meetings start reducing, I have seen in many families that the mother is waiting hoping to make that favourite dish, their “child” loved thirty years back. But the child does not have time when in India because of other commitments.
Each individual, each family, handles these issues in their unique ways, but one thing is sure the situations will remain in flux and will keep on changing, which to me, is natural! How to handle such things? What is the magic wand? Where is the magic wand? But I hear from many of my generation, that the magic wand is getting developed under the name of detachment!