Post 21, Ludhiana

6 p.m.: The flour mill is abuzz with activity. Vishnu is weighing a sack of wheat flour that is to be prepared for delivery. Both the grinding machines are operational, with Mevalal, Bablu and Hiralal attending.

Vishnu hurt himself accidentally on Diwali night: his co-workers joke that he had been jumping about after getting drunk. His injury notwithstanding, Vishnu loads the sacks onto the cart and proceeds to deliver them to different customers across the city.

7 p.m.: Bablu winds up his work, and prepares to leave for his room. I accompany him. The first thing he does on reaching home is to have a bath so he can get rid of the flour dust from the mill. He then proceeds to prepare for dinner, while I narrate to him news of an attempt to rape in Arati Chowk, near where I live, two nights ago. Bablu recounts a similar incident from a few years ago that occurred right outside the mill:

There was this married woman. She and her husband were from somewhere in Uttar Pradesh, and they had recently arrived in Ludhiana. That night, she and her husband quarreled and she left her home in a huff. As she wandered about the street, a few men, who were sitting by a small bonfire trying to keep themselves warm, saw her. They grabbed her. It was late in the night, but since there was a power cut in our homes, we were working at the mill where the generator maintained a steady supply of electricity. Hearing her screams, we went out to help her. But one of the men whipped out his knife. We came back to the mill and downed the shutters.

The men dragged the woman to the nearby park and gangraped her. By the morning, she was dead.

Bablu’s dinner is ready. He sits down to eat, and I take his leave.