friend

Post 59, Sargana

11:45 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal is not at home. I meet his long-term friend and mentor Vinay Mandal at the market nearby. He was wearing a blue coloured kurta atop a white dhoti, and sported a gamchha around his neck. Vinay is concerned about my health because he has observed me limp. When he hears that I tripped and twisted my ankle as I was taking my father for treatment, Vinay says:

You have taken on your father’s pain. You are a very good son indeed. After all, we do owe a lot to our parents don’t we? Our father who brought us up. Our mother who nurtured us in her womb for nine months.  But although one can repay their father’s debt, no one can every repay the debt to one’s mother.

A little later, Vinay Mandal talks to the owner of the kiosk in which we are sitting about the lawsuit over the temple. He complains of the time these things take in the law courts and worries that the privileged castes might twist the law to their advantage. Nevertheless, he trusts his lawyers, both of whom have assured him they will visit soon.

Post 7, Sargana

10:15 a.m. Shyamdev’s neighbour Bablu Vishwas greets me warmly. After enquiring into my well-being, he hands me a few pages of the newspaper he is reading. Shyamdev Mandal has still not returned from his visit. I chat with his neighbour and friend Vinay Mandal about the dispute in which he was embroiled. Vinay is confident that the dispute will be resolved soon, and that the public’s role in the management of the temple will be enforced by the law. Their neighbour Shiv Ram is busy at work mending a pair of slippers for his clients.

Post 1, Sargana

11:00 a.m.: I am meeting Shyamdev Mandal after four months. He has shaved his head to mark the death of one of his neighbours. He is going with his friend Krishna Chandra Hembrom to the district headquarters. He looks a bit hassled. He tells me his elder son, 22-year old Gyanesh Mandal has gone to Kerala to work in a footwear-manufacturing company. Indeed many people have gone away for a month to look for work in other States. But they will return in a few weeks to harvest the wheat crop. At least those who own agricultural fields (no matter how small) will, although landless labourers might not. He is quite confident his son will not return, which leaves him, his wife Savitriand their 14-year old son to work on their fields during the harvest. They might hire in some labour to help, but that will really depend on the wages labourers charge.