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Christy Lefteri's 'Songbirds': The invisible life of migrant domestic workers

The Daily Star, Sri Lanka, 14 April 2022 - Absence is the highest form of presence." This Joycean quote could not be truer for Nisha.

One day, after her husband is swallowed by the cave while mining for gems in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, Nisha makes the tough decision of sailing to Cypress for her livelihood. She ends up as the nanny for the child of a woman named Petra. Nisha, like all nannies, is conveniently invisible behind the wholesome meals cooked on time, the garden well-kept, and the child taken care of. But when she suddenly disappears, leaving her passport behind, Petra begins to feel her presence for the first time. Songbirds (Manilla Press, 2021) is a tale of migrant domestic workers whose presence becomes more vivid only once they go missing.

Nisha's story is not entirely a figment of imagination by author Christy Lefteri. In 2018, five migrant domestic workers and their two children went missing in Cypress. Even after the cases were reported, no investigation or even search was initiated. The police simply dismissed them as runaways. It wasn't until two years later that the real and more tragic fate of these women was discovered.



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