11:30 a.m.: Shyamdev Mandal sits under a tree in his courtyard. His shop is shut, as the windows are being repaired. Ramanand Vishwas, a relative of Shyamdev’s, is fixing iron rods to the wooden frame. Shyamdev has hired Ramanand to work on the window for a day, and will pay him INR 200 once the task is completed. In addition to this wage, Ramanad will also be provided lunch.
12 noon: I join Shyamdev Mandal on the machan in his courtyard. He contemplates the little mound of paddy on the floor of the courtyard. These are his wife, Savitri’s wages: she worked for a farmer in the neighbourhood the last few days and has received the grain as per the standard in-kind wage rate. For every nine bundles of paddy harvested, labourers receive one. Shyamdev Mandal scoffs when I ask him what they intend to do with the grain:
“There’s not much in there, is there? We’ll be cooking it of course”.
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.