The Burning City

My grandfather was a BCCL miner in Jharia. My father’s face illuminates when he talks about his childhood days in Jharia. Half of my village lived in this town working for BCCL. I have been a constant visitor since the far back time my memory takes me.

This is where I went to a cinema hall first time ever. It was Deshbandhu Talkies. Film was Umrao Jaan. I was 8 years old.  And my journey as a filmmaker began…mesmerized, overwhelmed and wowed in the dark hall of Deshbandhu!

There are innumerable personal memories I have with Jharia. Times I spent with my uncle who used to live there, my several relatives, cousins, lazy days, dark nights and the smell.

I got caught up with life…education, job, family…you know! It took me 15 years to visit Jharia once again. It was 2015. And my beloved Jharia… was no more!

Ghanudih, where most of my relatives lived had turned into a vast pit of open cast mining. A large part of my childhood was buried in those flaming mines. Fire had spread everywhere. People had no where to go. Almost a million were turned refugee. For a year I tried to trace the people I knew from Jharia. Few I found. Most had disappeared. This is their story –


Published by Gautam Singh

Gautam Singh is an independent film-maker, writer, director and a program-maker at Al Jazeera Media Network. His films include ‘Gaon – The Village No More’, 'India's Offside Girls', ‘Daughters of Brothel’, ‘The Burning City’, ‘Indian Hospital’, and ‘My Sister Laxmi’. Currently, he lives in Doha, Qatar along with his family.

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