Post 25, Abdullahpur Basti

6 p.m.: Kamal flour mill is in chaos. The machine used to stitch the delivery sacks has broken down. Bablu is taking it to an electrical shop nearby for repairs. The repairs take about an hour to carry out. By the time he returns with it to the mill, it is 7 p.m. Bablu deposits the machine and packs up for the day.

“Not a minute beyond 7,” he says. “The malik (owner of the mill, a reference to Birjinder) does not pay me any extra money if I work beyond 7. Why should I stick on then?”

7:15 p.m.: We walk back to Bablu’s room. He tells me he plans to ask Birjinder for a raise. If he refuses, Bablu will look for an alternative mill in which to work. “If a couple of us were to leave Kamal flour mill, all production here will cease,” he declares.

He then goes to take a bath.

7:30 p.m.: Bablu soaks the rice that he will cook for dinner. Sunil, who lives in the same building as Bablu and hails from the same village as him, is also here. While washing the lentils with which he will make dal (lentil soup), Bablu tells me about the family of a distant relative who moved to Ludhiana a few years ago:

The man works at a factory, but his wife does not stay with him. She lives with other men. They have a son but since neither of them can look after him, they were planning to sell him. I talked them out of this horrible plan, and got a foster home for the boy.

Bablu chops some onions as accompaniment to the dal and continues:

The woman complained that her husband spent all his income on his friends, while she and her son starved. I told her she should have asked me for help. After all, we are family.

The dal boils. The rice is almost ready: Bablu drains out the starch.