India Moving: A History of Migration

My thoughts and review of the book by Chinmay Tumbe

Karthik Muthuswamy
2 min readDec 23, 2023

As a migrant myself, I’m very curious to hear the stories of fellow migrants and understand their history. The author, Chinmay Tumbe, gives a comprehensive history of Indian migration — which communities in India “moved”, how and why they moved and how it affected their regions. He introduces the “great Indian migration wave” which is arguably the largest and longest voluntary migration stream for work in documented history.

About 3.6% of the global population, 280 million people, lived outside their home country as of 2020, according to the World Migration Report. But this doesn’t include internal migration within countries like India, which is one of the most diverse regions in the world culturally and linguistically. Internal migration, as I understood from this book, has been much larger in scale, especially in India. During the great Indian migration wave, spanning the past 150 years, more than 100 million people have migrated for work, which makes a fifth of the total workforce in India. The internal diaspora in India –which includes people living in a region that speaks a different language– is over 60 million.

I have read about the high representation of migrants among business leaders including CEOs in the USA. From this book, I learned about a similar case in India among business leaders and even political leaders from the internal diaspora.

As the Indian economy grows, the author predicts that India will become a country of immigration attracting people from neighboring and Western countries. In addition, he predicts increased internal migration from north to south India.

I grew up in Chennai. Now I better understand why I went to a Sindhi school and why there is a church and a mosque right next to my home. All my neighbours are Indians — nevertheless, I grew up in a diverse multicultural environment among the various Indian diaspora communities.