The Gitanjali Express pulls into Howrah station an hour behind schedule. The four hour journey from Jamshedpur has taken five. I tumble out of the air conditioning onto the platform which - I kid you not - smells of fish.
Blinking in the mid-afternoon sunshine, a dozen cabbies descend on me. "Madam.. airport?" I know there is a prepaid counter but my plan is non-linear. It involves killing about 3 hours of time. Even as I am wondering which cabbie to take, a young man in a t-shirt and a shock of peroxide blonde hair butts in.
"Madam, Indica car.. with a/c". I haven't said 'yes', but he picks up my bag and starts crossing the road. Khaki-clad drivers of fat yellow Ambassador taxis silently watch him steal their prey.
It is an Indica. The a/c spews out air nearly as hot as what is circulating outside the tinted windows. But, hey.
The driver is from - where else - Bihar. Are all taxi drivers in Kolkata Biharis? He grins. "Buddhababu ne sara government jobs to Bengalis ke liye reserve kiya hai... What other option do we have?"
So what's the attraction of a government job? 10-5 working (and not much work). Rs 8-10,000 salary. "Hum subah paanch baje se raat barah baje tak kaam karte hain tab koi teen, saade teen hazaar bante hain."
Only an outsider, on a hungry stomach, will work so hard. This is a universal human truth.
In the UK, a poll of small and medium-sized businesses conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce found that "more than three quarters of employers believe migration is beneficial to the economy and want the government to help them take on more foreign workers".
Almost half said they had turned to migrant labour because they could not find British employees with the right experience and skills, while another 40% said they took on workers from overseas because they believed they were more productive and worked harder.
... One managing director, Phil Inness of Axis Electronics which employs 20% Polish workers, told the BCC: "In three years of employing from eastern Europe, we haven't had one negative experience. The only concern I have is that at some point they might want to go home."
Biharis come to Kolkata as taxi drivers. Kolkata ke pade likhe bachche come to Mumbai for apne standard ke jobs. Ambitious young men and women from Mumbai go to the US to study and hope to stay on. And of course, several permutations and combinations possible in the above story.
The kid who never filled a glass of water for himself in India will work at an all-night gas station in Pennsylvania for some extra pocket money. Idhar koi keh de, beta, you must work at Cafe Coffee Day after college... Kiski majaal!
The 'sons of the soil' - they are called. Because they have roots. Social networks and mental comfort zones. And, property as well. They have the option of selling their one-bedroom flats in crumbling old buildings and move to modern apartment complexes in distant suburbs - like those who made their homes more recently.
But they would rather cling on the old way of life.
All this, in light of the recent Shiv Sena agitation against Big Bazaar for dismissing 120 probationary workers. The party claimed the company has been discriminating against 'locals' and has asked for '80% of jobs in malls to be reserved for Maharashtrians."
The company has clarified that 86% of its workforce comprises of Maharashtrians - several of whom have gone on to become managers. However, the management has reinstated the workers and will try to find some role for them.
Meanwhile, migration is inevitable. New energy, new hopes and new dudes will continue to flow into our city of potholes and dreams. They will outrun the next guy to pick up a weary traveller's suitcase. They will keep their shops open an hour longer than the 'locals'. They will take less holidays because they have no one to spend them with.
And they will create wealth. Which creates the jobs that ultimately employ us all.