The wrath and hostility towards the migrant workers from the north of country, mostly the states of UP and Bihar, spilled over from the neighbouring town of Vyara in Gujarat and reached Vishal’s narrow little street. His landlord whacked a wiry middle-aged northerner with a rod, kicked him in the belly and warned him to stay away. Watch the sheer arrogance of these northerners, he muttered to Vishal as he threw his rod at the pile of other rods and sticks in his frontyard and washed his hands under a communal tap, that they can come and snatch our jobs. Vishal watched silently, his face distorting in discomfort and guilt, for he had his own migrant story buried deep inside his gut. His mind travelled back to the time when he had moved to England from his native Gujarat to carve out a life for himself. Travelling on a tourist visa, he had hoped to utilize his basic computer skills to land a job as a data cruncher. Mounting rejections from IT companies and an expired visa culminated in a situation that forced him to pick up a job in the construction industry as an illegal worker. Instead of fingers flying over a keyboard, it was hands and arms doing heavy lifting under the bright neon lights of the construction site by night. A year later, a bloody scuffle with a bunch of Bangladeshi lads got him branded as a troublemaker and pushed him out of that construction gig. After countless fruitless trips to other building sites, newsagents and chip shops, he found work in the frowzy kitchen of a restaurant in the East End, preparing dishes under the supervision of more adroit Gujarati chef, who bullied him mercilessly. Just then, the Brexit fever gripped the nation. Under pressure to act, the Home Office personnel swooped down on his hostel, found him bereft of legal papers and deported him back to his native Gujarat. His mother expressed her deep regret over his return and revealed that the local jeweller was no longer interested in marrying off his daughter to him. At his cousin’s wedding, he buried his face in his palms, had a deep cry over his feeling of hopelessness and smeared lipstick over his lips. The red colour of the lipstick had barely faded off his lips when violence erupted in Gujarat over the rape of a toddler by a northerner which then morphed into venom against all outsiders in the state. No one likes immigrants, anywhere in the world, Vishal thought as he watched a frenetic crowd chase some Bihari down the street, a cloud of red dust rising as rapid, angry feet beat against the unpaved ground. Then on an impulse, he got up, picked up a rod from the pile and headed out to join the crowd. Bahar Niklo (get out), he yelled fiercely, echoing the sentiments of the angry mob that now resembled a herd of wild beasts looking to pounce upon its impuissant prey.
Sona Maniar is a chemical engineer from UT Austin and a MBA from INSEAD (France). She’s currently working in corporate venturing for a large engineering conglomerate. Her short fiction has appeared in print and online magazines such as Foliate Oak Literary Journal, Litro, Woman’s Era, Jellyfish Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Quail Bell Magazine, amongst others. She has recently published her collection of short fiction titled 'Peasants at a Party and Other Stories'. Here's the link to her website: https://sonamaniarblog.wordpress.com/