Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hail the 21st century heroes

In all of history, there have been periods when groups of people have changed the world. Sometimes the soldier, sometimes the priest, sometimes the king, sometimes the philosopher, sometimes the writer.

In my view, two heroes have changed the world at the dawn of the 21st century. Unheralded they are, but they have changed the world nevertheless. China's migrant worker and India's coder. Today it's a salute to China's migrant worker.

There are lots of them. Some 200 million or so. They have built the skyscrapers, the roads, the airports and all the wonderful infrastructure that you see in China today. They make all those products that you and I, anywhere in the world, have been able to afford. They mine the coal that supplies all the power to the factories that churn out the goods that we all buy. They are the ones, who have made China, what it is today.

They come from the interior of China. They come to the eastern coast where much of the economic activity happens. They leave behind their farms and their families. They come alone to the strange big city. They live in packed dormitories near their work place. Theirs is a tough life. They live alone. They work hard. They send the money to their families back home.

They work really hard. Work long hours. And they're all not men. In fact many factories prefer women. So the women too have come from a far off land. Its often usual that the husband and wife are both migrant workers living in cities thousands of kilometres apart. The child (China has a one child policy) is left back home in the village, often with the grandparents.

Once a year, at Chinese new year time, comes their moment. They all head home. All 200 million of them. Its the greatest annual migration of humans ever. It happens every year . For a week, they get back to their families. To their child. To their parents. To their spouse. The week passes by very quickly. And its time for the reverse migration to start another year of toil.

These are the real heroes of China. China's boom is largely because of them. Much of the world's economic prosperity is owed to them.

Hail China's migrant worker.