Post 37, Abdullahpur Basti

6:00 p.m.: I am at Kamal Flour Mill, sitting on a drum while Vishnu and Dasharath operate one of the grinding machines. It's just the two of them today: I see neither Mevalal nor Ambika in the mill. A bell rings, an indication that one of the workers is needed to be at the counter, situated at the entrance of the mill. Vishnu hurls expletives against Birjinder as he gets up and proceeds towards the counter. His expletives are however

Dasharath smiles and complains about his employer: “He’s always ordering us around. Just rings the bell whenever he feels like, as if we are simply sitting idle. And if he does see us sit idle, he always invents work on the spot. If nothing else, he makes us sweep the floor.”

6:15 p.m.: Rachit comes to the counter. He picks up the school bag perched on it and takes it upstairs. The school bag belongs to Birjinider’s daughter. Since it is heavy, she hasn’t bothered to carry it upstairs, leaving that for Rachit to do.

6:30 p.m.: Rachit comes downstairs again with some shirts which need to be ironed. He and I walk over to the modest home of the ironing person who lives down the road. Rachit leaves the shirts with him so he can iron them at his convenience, promising to be back in a few hours.

7:30 p.m.: I am Mevalal’s room. Preparing the ingredients for his dinner, he tells me his waist has been aching which explains his inability to come to the mill earlier today. He has applied some Nurani Oil, a herbal-based body oil, to bring himself relief.

Vishnu’s brother Raju is here as is Shiv Kumar, their neighbour from their village in Gonda. Raju works at a grocery store nearby while Shiv Kumar has yet been unsuccessful in finding an appropriate job. At the moment, he is watching the Bhojpuri film Gangaputra.