11 a.m.: I am at Shyamdev Mandal’s house. His wife Savitri Mandal informs me that he is in Araria on some work. Gyanesh Mandal is in Purnea to visit relatives. Listening in to our conversation, her younger son, Gyanesh’s younger brother, complains that no one has bothered to take him along anywhere and that he has no choice but to manage his father’s shop.
10:15 a.m.: I wait outside Shyamdev Mandal’s hut since there is nobody at home. Within a few minutes, however, he hurries over, and looks extremely distressed. The vest and the white trousers he is wearing are both drenched in sweat.
“I am trying to repair the house,” he informs me pointing to the thatched roof that has partially caved in. “I procured some bamboo rods the other day, but can’t seem to find enough straw for the roof. I have been scouting around the fields, but no luck.”
“Where’s everyone else?” I ask.
He sighs: “They’ve gone to meet relatives in the next village. That was why I had to lock the shop. Anyway, there aren’t enough provisions. I need to go buy some- biscuits, oil, spices.”
Wherefrom does he buy the items to stock in his shop, I enquire. He names some retailers at the Block Square the hatia, who helped him tide over the crisis in the wake of the demonetisation announcement.
“Make no mistake: demonetisation is an excellent idea: who else but Modi thinks about the poor these days? Don’t you read the newspapers- they are all talking about the benefits of demonetisation” He quickly adds: “But they should have given the public more time.”
I am curious as to how he coped in the aftermath of the announcement: did he have to wait in queues to exchange his old high-denomination notes?
“Why would I do that?” He asks incredulously. “I used it to purchase provisions for my store. The merchants at the Block Square took it from me. I have good contacts with them,” he adds smugly.
10: 30 a.m. Shyamdev Mandal is back. He tells me he was away at his in-laws’ house. He has cut short his visit because he wants to be in Sargana in time for the counting of the votes, which is scheduled to start within a couple of days. He has had no news of his son for a few weeks, but shrugs off his worries by talking about the elections. Shyamdev then tells me he has to go to meet Ramchandra and his wife, and takes my leave.