Not that he doesn't care of home, but honestly, when you're 25 and are earning a lot more than your father and seniors could have dreamt of in their times; when you've learnt two new languages interacting with people from an entire continent; when you have got used to the freedom from family structures and especially, when those are replaced by the mix of camaraderie, wit, brotherhood and professional solidarity that grows being “bideshe”, “abroad”, with a group of men of your age, region, upbringing, class and religion; and when you're given the option to go out and line up on the side of a loud highway to catch the bus and reach your construction site or to go out and catch up with your village lads on a road raised above endless paddy and jute fields to go search for work – well, then you'd probably choose with little regret to stay away, even if it means to stay without a home. That's what Shahabuddin must think every morning at 7 walking to the bus stand. Definitely, it can take more than one hour to reach, as the houses he builds are all on plots of land bought with Gulf-money far-off even from Aluva, the town around which the recent construction boom, and hence also the migrant workers, concentrate. In some cases, it might be necessary to leave before 7, since the reporting times are quite strict; but Kerala's road transport is reliable and cheap; that of West Bengal too, actually, but moving on the roads of his home district, Murshidabad, means pain and sure delays. 10_SAH_2-2_RHY_PIC_01d.jpg
The official working time in Kerala is of eight hours and comprises, as stipulated by the labour unions, one hour of rest at 1pm. As they mostly carry their lunch along, Shahabuddin and his fellows rarely need so much time, but they'd go out to drink a cup of tea at 10.30/11am and at 3pm; they often comply with the builders' request to stay longer (and to work on Sundays), as overtime is rewarded in Kerala. This is another very relevant difference from West Bengal, where small alike big-scale builders tend to cheat the workers, hardly honour the overtimes and delay all payments: this, along with the higher wages, makes him prefer to work in Kerala. In fact, meanwhile, the periods he spends at home – one or maximum two months – are exclusively dedicated to enlarge and refurbish his parents' house; if he takes up masonry work for other people, it's always for referenced families, so that the payment is sure, and never for more than six to eight hours a day: after all, he's on leave. 10_SAH_2-2_RHY_PIC_02b.jpg
Afterwork with friends and peers is generally spent at Aluva's bazar. Once at home, they listen to music or watch movies while one in the group, in charge of the kitchen, prepares the dinner for all. Every second Sunday, when he doesn't work, he might go on a trip to Ernakulam or to the beach of Fort Kochi and later watch a Hindi or Malayalam movie at the cinema; most often however, he and his friends just visit the bazar in the nearby town of Perumbavoor, where Bengali migrants have set up their own unofficial market. Whereas the atmosphere at the 'Bengali market' resembles that of every big open-air bazar in West Bengal, this one is, as it exclusively caters to migrants, far more than a place where to buy Bengali mishti, sweets, and cigarettes from Murshidabad: here, one can share news about available jobs and information about 'good' or 'bad' employers, but also submit remittances for his families to middlemen that take care of the money transfer. Whether Shahabuddin misses this place loaded with energy during his stays at the village? There, whenever he's free, he would roam around by bicycle, mostly to neighbouring villages and alleged “girlfriends”, or to the near Ganges that demarcates the border to Bangladesh. What is sure is that in the last few years, his stays in Sadi Khan Diar have progressively shortened from two-three months to just four-six weeks. Hence, although he continues to locate his physical and “felt” home in the village, it is difficult to say in how far the latter, as it has progressively become the place where he spends his vacation periods, can at all be linked with an everyday life experience. That everyday life has shifted, in Shahabuddin's and many other young men's case, to Aluva, where though lacking a "proper home", they do have the power – money, friendships, social bonds – to give shape to a habitat of their own through the alternating rhythms of work and leisure. Although they surely don't see it this way and would never admit it, “habitat” does not necessarily coincide with the place one hails from but is rather the place where one attains and can exert that power. 10_SAH_2-2_RHY_PIC_03b.jpg