Post 58, Sargana

11 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal is at his shop. He is visibly upset as he prepares his tobacco flakes for his beedi. He hails me and asks me to join him at the shop. The anxiety is reflected in his voice:

You know, somehow, I don’t think the younger one will complete school. I can see the signs, you know what I mean [I confessed I didn’t]. There are signs. I can see them come. He will also not study and follow in his father’s footsteps.

The conversation turns to Gyanesh. I ask Shyamdev if he has been in touch with his son.

Arre, he does not talk to me. He left home because he was annoyed with me, so why would he talk to me. Yes, he talks to his mother and brother. They probably know where he is, but no one tells me anything.

Shyamdev calls Jitendra, who comes out from inside the house

Shyamdev Mandal: Tell me, where is Gyanesh? Where has he gone?

Jitendra: I told you, I don’t know.

I intervene: you must have a number from which he calls.

Jitendra [looking towards his father]: No, I don’t. He keeps changing numbers.

Jitendra walks away inside the house. Shyamdev Mandal continues

The next time he shows his face, I will get Gyanesh married off. If he doesn’t want to study, at least he can get married.

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 54, Sargana

3 p.m.: Shyamdev Mandal sits at his shop, but he looks extremely annoyed.

“I have work to do,” he informs me, “so someone needs to attend to this shop.”

He continues: “I had asked the two boys (referring to his sons) to attend to the shop. But neither of them are to be seen. They must be smoking marijuana somewhere”

Shyamdev’s wife has gone to meet some relatives. He continued, anger oozing from every pore of his visage:

All this (he points to the shop and the goods stored therein) is for my boys. But they just don’t understand, the irresponsible motherf****rs. They were sitting around the whole morning, but have disappeared exactly when they should be here.

Even as he speaks, he stands up suddenly at the counter and steps out of the shop muttering: “I don’t care either. If they are not interested, why should I be? I have loads of work to attend to. Forget it all…”

Disappointment now writ large across his face, Shyamdev begins to shut the door of the shop.