Post 56, Sargana

5:00 p.m.: Shyamdev Mandal is outside his courtyard hunched with a sickle over a clump of grass, which he is collecting as fodder. The shop is shut. I ask for Gyanesh Mandal, his son.

Arre, he ran away,” Shyamdev replies, without so much as batting an eyelid.

“Ran away!!” I am too stunned to say anything else.

“Yeah, it happened about five days ago,” Shyamdev says, putting his sickle to a side. “He has gone off to Lucknow, or maybe Ludhiana,” he says, tears now welling up in his eyes. “He has called, but doesn’t talk to me. Only to his mother.”

He continues:

“It happened five days ago. He left home without saying a word to anyone. Then he called his mother to let her know he was in Ludhiana. I know what this is about: those exams. He didn’t want to sit for the exams.”

Shyamdev Mandal is lost in his thoughts. I don’t think it appropriate to pursue the conversation and take my leave.