Circulation of Food and Family

the urbz Mumbai team traces back its lunch to the village

As part of our documentation of the the movement of goods and services to and from a village into neighbourhoods of Mumbai, we explored the circulation of goods coming and going beyond the city. This phenomenon is more evident among migrant families in Mumbai who bring food grains, spices, herbs and essential storable vegetables like onion, garlic and potatoes back from the village on scheduled visits and holidays like festivals.

We did not have to look far for an example. One of our colleagues, at urbz, Sagar had a home and relations in his village that pretty much did this, and he was happy to help. Sagar’s family regularly visited the village home on weekends and family functions. On one such visit, to a marriage function, our whole batch of interns accompanied him along.

Sagar’s native place, the village of Nipurtepada, is located 80 Km away from Mumbai. It is a hamlet of around 50 households mostly belonging to the members of the same family. Interestingly, it is named after the family name Nipurte (pada or wadi in local language means hamlet).

As Sagar and his parents live in Thane, across north Mumbai, not far from his village, the frequency of his travel there is regular. We were invited to visit his village, where about 30 family members still live and farm. They grow wheat, okra, tur dal, etc. mostly for household consumption. A few family members, like Sagar’s parents, have moved to a second home in the city to be closer to their jobs, while some others still commute more than 4 hours every day. However, each one of them regularly comes back to the village for celebrations, and on their way back to the city, pack supplies for cooking and other needed essentials. Most of what Sagar eats every day at lunch in office in Dharavi, has been harvested in the family farm and brought to Thane to be cooked by his mother.

Even as urban citizens, Sagar and his family hold onto the roots of their native place and imbibe a bit of their ancestral connections through the food they eat every day. The consciousness of the origin of the ingredients of their daily meal seems to be common for many people in Mumbai. This is something worthy of preservation, not only because it ensures food security, but also because it is a way of maintaining the spread of knowledge of recipes, variety of grains and vegetables and food traditions. The territorial and sociological links between urban and rural need to be acknowledged and reinforced in order to prevent the rapidly rising division between rural and urban areas.