Post 43, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

6:45 p.m.: Mevalal, Hiralal and Kalki work the grinding machines at the mill. Vishnu and Bablu have stepped out to make some deliveries and Rachit is busy finishing chores for Birjinder’s household. Dasharath is also hanging around at the mill, chatting with the others. He is no longer employed at the mill, but Birjinder has allowed him to live in the adjoining quarters till he finds a job. Dasharath wants to purchase a pair of shoes, and asks me to accompany him. I agree.

We walk towards the next lane where we stop at the first shop we come across. Dasharath views the shoes displayed on the rack and decides to enter the shop and make further enquiries. The sales assistant, who could not have been older than 22 years old, asks him if he wants to buy sports shoes, to which Dasharath replies in the affirmative. The sales assistant then lays out several specimens for Dasharath to try. Dasharath is particularly enamoured of a red-coloured shoe with a black border, and asks for its price.

“INR 800,” the assistant replies.

Dasharath pauses. He has only INR 600 with him, as he told me on our way in to the shop.

“Can you be a bit more reasonable with the price?” he asks the assistant.

“What is your budget?” the assistant enquires.

“INR 500,” Dasharath replies.

“Seriously? What did you expect to buy for INR 500?” the assistant taunts Dasharath before proceeding to clear away the counter and show us less expensive specimens. But Dasharath does not like what is on offer.

We exit the shop and walk along. I suggest to him that purchasing shoes online might be cheaper, but Dasharath does not like the idea at all. “How can one buy something so important without seeing it with their own eyes and trying them on first,” he asks in near shock.

We come across another shoe-selling shop. Dasharath likes two pairs of shoes displayed on the rack. Dasharath buys a pair that looks extremely stylish even though the material is not as good as the other one. Thoroughly pleased with his purchase, Dasharath makes his way back home.