'Its not the train, its not the ship that is our enemy, but rather the money that compels our husbands to migrate overseas' (Lament from the Bihari folk musical the bidesia (The Migrant), cited in Subodh Gupta, Gandhi's Three Monkeys exh. cat. New York, 2008, p. 101)
Dubai to Calcutta is one of an important series of works known as Across Seven Seas made in 2006. Consisting of a series of aluminium and bronze cast replicas of the kind of luggage that millions of Indian migrant workers bring back to India on trolleys as the materialistic fruit of their labour in other lands, these works are commemorative statues of a widespread contemporary economic phenomenon particularly relevant to Subodh Gupta's home state of Bihar.
The impoverished Indian state of Bihar has been providing a large percentage of India's large population of migrant workers for over a hundred years. Gupta who grew up as the son of a railway employee in a railway enclave in Khagoul in Bihar, would have been witness from an early age to the quiet tragedy, theatre and drama of these migrant workers' journeys to and from their homeland in search of a brighter material future.
Serving as a kind of opposite to Gupta's sculptures of commonplace pots and pans, these luxuriously rendered baggage trolleys represent the extraordinary, but in fact also pitiful, material objects from the outside world so proudly brought back into the country by migrant workers, in the same way that the kitchen utensils seem to
symbolise the disappearing culture of home. Invoking a profound sense of a civilization and culture in a perpetual state of transition, each of these series of sculptures reflects heavily upon current class and cultural associations in contemporary India and the changing nature of the country ancient ways as it adjusts to a new era dominated by a global economy and the facility of mass transit.