Kerala

Post 57, Sargana

11:30 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal’s younger son Jitendra sits at the shop, while I chat with their neighbour Arjun Mandal on the machan in their courtyard. Shyamdev Mandal soon joins us. He has just returned from the bank where he had applied for a loan way back in August of the previous year for his shop. He complains to Arjun Mandal:

Brother, what a bast**d the Branch Manager is. The m*****f***** tells me: come today, come tomorrow. Had I relied on him, this shop would have never come into existence. But the fellow has still not approved my loan. I don’t understand what goes on in his head.

Arjun asks him if he is sure he has submitted all the correct papers.

I gave the m*****f***** all the papers as soon as he wanted them. This was way back in July. He misplaced those, so I gave him another set. I don’t know what he has done to those, maybe shoved them up his ar*e.

Arjun and I nod in sympathy.

There is no end to my worries. Now [addressing Arjun] you know what Gyanesh has done. [Arjun shakes his head]. He has run away [Arjun doesn’t look as shocked as I did when I heard this news yesterday]. The last time, when he went to Kerala- he did so without my permission. It was the same story: he walked away without a word. It’s the same story again. I had wanted him to study and sit for the board exam.

My son was annoyed each time I asked him to study. Arre, was I asking him to study for myself? No, its for him. We don’t want him to lead the same difficult lives that we have led. But the boy just doesn’t understand.

Shyamdev’s wife Savirti appears with some chai, which we all sip quietly.

Post 48, Sargana

9:30 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal sits on the machan in his courtyard with another gentleman, who looks approximately 30 years old. He is clad in a jacket and a pair of jeans, and wraps a muffler around his head. Shyamdev Mandal informs him of his plans to look for employment outside Sargana.

“Do you have a place in mind,” Shyamdev’s companion asks.

“I will go wherever Mahadev takes me,” Shyamdev replies cryptically, referring to the popular deity Shiva. But adds promptly: I only know Delhi and Kolkata, so it will have to be either of these places.  

At that moment, Gyanesh joins the conversation. Looking towards his son, Shyamdev adds further: “Of course now I have a third place where I can go- Kerala!”

Gyanesh looks on, alarmed.

Post 47, Sargana

12:15 p.m.: Gyanesh is sitting at the counter of his father’s shop, wearing a sweater and a pair of jeans. He informs me his father has gone to the market in Ranigunj to purchase provisions for their shop. I accept his invitation to sit by the counter and chat about his time in Kerala. With a longing look in his eyes, Gyanesh tells me of how much he misses working and living in Kerala, even though he did not know the language very well: “I just loved the fact that I was independent. Nobody to stop you from doing the things you wat to do. Nobody to interfere in your daily affairs. Life was very comfortable”, he says.

Post 33, Sargana

8:45 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal cycles towards Sargana hatia. He informs me his son Gyanesh is at home, guessing accurately that I am looking for him. At Shyamdev Mandal’s residence, however, his daughter tells me that Gyanesh has gone out to meet friends. She asks me to wait.

9:30 a.m.: Gyanesh rides into the compound of his hut on a red-coloured Bajaj Discover motorcycle, with his friend riding pillion. He is wearing a yellow striped shirt while his friend a T-shirt. Both wear jeans. Neither has a helmet. Gyanesh steps down from the bike and waves to me, indicating that we go inside the shop adjacent to the hut. His friend leaves. Gyanesh spits out the betel leaf and tobacco flakes he has been chewing as he takes his place at the counter of the shop, asking his sister to step aside. She promptly obliges and disappears down the road. He begins to tell me about his work in Kerala.

10 a.m.: Gyanesh decides he wants to dry out the jute fibre his family have harvested the previous week. He continues to chat while he sweeps the compound clean before he lays out the fubre. The jute crop was harvested a month ago, soon after Ganesh had returned.

The plant was cut and tied into bundles. Sheafs of jute stock were then immersed in the nearby pond for nearly three weeks: the bark was peeled yesterday after which the fibre was removed. It is now time for the fibre to be spread out in the sunlight so it can dry.