anxiety

Post 43, Sargana

11 a.m.: Gyanesh and his mother Savitri sit at the counter of their shop. Gyanesh’s face is tucked in a muffler and he sports a red-coloured sweater and a pair of jeans. He tells me he purchased the jeans from a stall at the local hatia earlier this year: they cost about INR 300.

11:15 a.m.: Gyanesh confesses that he is anxious about the exams scheduled to begin on March 1. They have to study Sanskrit, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Hindi for these exams and he is getting extremely nervous about them.

Post 42, Sargana

10:30 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal is sweeping the courtyard in front of his house. His son Gyanesh sits at the counter of their shop, talking to someone on his mobile. He wears a jacket and a pair of jeans while his father wraps a shawl over his half-sleeve sweater. Since Ganesh’s hands are free (he is using a pair of black earphones), he is arranging the items in the shop while chatting.

The creases on Shyamdev Mandal’s forehead betray his anxiety. He has still not managed to repair the roof, since he hasn’t managed to procure enough straw.

“It is really getting too much for me. I have to do everything here. This shop that you see… I am the only who is doing anything about it.,” he despairs.

He continues: “All I want is for him (pointing to Gyanesh) to study a bit. Is that too much for a father to expect? If he studied and sat his exams, I will be satisfied.”

Lowering his voice, Shyamdev confesses: “We are facing financial difficulties. This shop has required quite a bit of investment. And we have had to do it all by ourselves- the Bank officials have still not approved my application for a loan.”

As Shyamdev goes inside the hut, Gyanesh concludes his conversation on the phone. He then invites me to sit at the counter by him. He has brought a cup of chai for me.

“I long to go away from here,” he tells me matter-of- factly. “There are too many altercations at home. People telling you what to do… not liking what you want to. I want some peace of mind. I just want to leave home… don’t want to stay here any more.”

Post 21, Sargana

11:15 a.m.: I am at Shyamdev Mandal’s home. Shyamdev has just finished his bath at the handpump. He brings over two cups of lemon tea (black tea with a dash of lime). As we sip on the tea, he informs me that Gyanesh has not arrived yet. He infers that Gyanesh will probably not come home anytime soon, but cannot say for sure since he has been unable to make contact with his son-in-law, with whom Gyanesh stays and works.  Shyamdev says he will call again this evening. Looking somewhat lost, he mentions that he will persuade his son to stay back whenever he returns. If he insists on going back to work, Shyamdev says, he- Shyamdev- will also accompany him.

Shyamdev is also anxious about the loan for which he had applied. The bank manager has not yet approved it, and has been asking him to keep coming back with this or that document.

To add to his anxieties, he had invested some funds with an enterprise he calls prayag.net, who are now refusing to pay him back his principal and interest. The enterprise is based in Kolkata.

The creases on Shyamdev’s forehead are exceptionally prominent today as he recounts his numerous worries.