This article reflects on the dissenting act of mobility as articulated by migrant workers in India, who, during the nationwide lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, are walking back home, hundreds of miles away, in lieu of public transport. Their mobility—precisely, the act of walking—has thus acquired a metaphoric status, and laid bare the ideological practices of territorializing the city-space. This article argues that the migrant worker's mobility, from within the axiomatic of the prevalent “mobility regime,” can be read as a powerful metaphor of our tensions within the global political-economic order that the pandemic has so starkly exposed. The article provokes less literal, but more literary, understandings of mobilities in general, in order to come to grips with the manifold contradictions, paradoxes, and counteractions in the way the world moves.
Avishek Ray teaches at the National Institute of Technology Silchar (India). His research pivots around, broadly speaking, travel and mobility. He is the co-editor of Nation, Nationalism and the Public Sphere: Religious Politics in India (SAGE, 2020). His research appears in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Journal of Literary Studies, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Multicultural Education Review, Journal of Human Values, among others; and he has held research fellowships at the University of Edinburgh (UK), Purdue University Library (US), Centre for Advanced Study, Sofia (Bulgaria), Mahidol University (Thailand), and Pavia University (Italy). Email: email@example.com