Photographs by Harshay Jha 

Poetry by Sudeshna Rana

What happens to a place after its people have left? 

Between 2021 and 2022, photographer Harshay Jha travelled to Tundi, a village in Dhanbad—the coal capital of India—to bear witness to the so-called “money-order economy” that dominates parts of the state. In regions where paddy is the sole crop, men are forced out of their villages in search of employment for parts of the year when agriculture cannot provide a livelihood. This leaves their families waiting for remittances or money-orders from them, while the women take responsibility for the community and the well-being of children, elderly as well as livestock.

Sudeshna Rana is a writer who grew up in the semi-urban neighbourhood of Barmasia, Dhanbad. Eventually, she moved away and resided in different cities for higher education, only to return to her own hometown in 2022, as a stranger. Born in a village in Bankura, West Bengal, and moving to Dhanbad—then a part of Bihar, now in Jharkhand—her ideas of home have always been in a constant flux of longing and belonging. Migrating for the dream of a better life leaves a deficit in both the place and the person.  

Through the visual cues of Harshay’s photographs, Sudeshna weaves in poetry re-imagining the life-worlds that remain once the migrant leaves.

About the contributors

Trained at the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication (SACAC), New Delhi, Harshay Jha is a lifestyle and hospitality photographer by day, and an aspiring documentary photographer and filmmaker by night. He has produced work for the likes of Azure Hospitality, Khoya Mithai and The Lalit, and his photographs have been exhibited at Ras Se Bana Benaras, the City Experience Festival held at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.


He is on Instagram: @harshayjha


Sudeshna Rana is a writer, editor, poet and researcher interested in culture, gender and ecology. She is a 2022 South Asia Speaks fellow, and is currently working on her first book based on her hometown, Dhanbad.


She is on Instagram: @the_blackcottoncandy