Post 34, Sargana

10 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal has just come out of the bath. He asks me to sit by the counter at his shop where Jitendra, his younger son is listening to Bhojpuri music on the phone (He has earphones plugged in, but one could hear what he was listening to, nevertheless). A veiled Savitri, Shyamdev’s wife, informs me that Ganesh has been afflicted with pock marks, and proceeds to explain that Mata (Mother) has inflicted his body: Mata aa gayi hai (The Mother has arrived), she says matter-of-factly.

“What is he going to do about it?” I ask, suspecting that Gyanesh is stricken by measles.

“Nothing. There’s nothing to be done. One shouldn’t administer any medication,” says Shyamdev Mandal, who now joins us at the counter.

Savitri goes into the kitchen and brews us some chai.

“I am going to the hatia to purchase some items”, Shyamdev Mandal informs me.

“For Diwali?”, I ask, alluding to the festival of lights which will be celebrated later tonight.

Arre Diwali is in the evening. I am going to buy wood with which I can frame a window,” he says, pointing to a niche by the counter, which has been marked out for that purpose.

Post 27, Sargana

10:45 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal sits on the machan outside his hut, while his younger son Jitendra manages the counter. He is worried because his wife has not been well. The doctor has asked her to get some tests done, and they are awaiting the results.

Shyamdev is further upset because he has heard no news from his son. His son-in-law returned to his village last week, and they were anticipating Gyanesh’s return this week. But there has been no news from Gyanesh at all. It’s the fifth day of the ten-day long Dussehra festival, and it would have been nice if Gyanesh had been able to join them.

Credit: Zaheeb Ajmal

Credit: Zaheeb Ajmal