Post 9, Sargana

4 p.m.: The election results for the position of the Panchayat President are being announced. The votes are counted in a room at the Block Head Quarters, while the names of successful candidates are being announced over loudspeaker. The place is crowded with people, especially supporters of victorious candidates. However, I cannot see Shyamdev Mandal among the assembled people. I soon realise that the candidate he supported, Manya Rishi, has lost: she secured barely 5% of all the votes counted. This is not entirely unexpected: her husband is often away to Punjab for work, and people fear that she may not be able to run the Panchayat without a constant male presence. Indeed, the post is bagged by Purnima Rajak, whose husband owns a small shop in the main bazaar. Purnima’s supporters erupt in joy when news of her success is relayed.

Shyamdev Mandal later tells me he left when it became obvious that Mandya Rishi was staring at defeat.