6:15 p.m.: Lalit and I chat on the phone. Lalit tells me that he and his co-workers are meeting up at Vishnu’s room. It’s the last Monday of the month, the monthly holiday to which everyone looks forward. He invites me to join them.
6:30 p.m.: Vishnu’s room is less than 500 metres away from Ratan Flour Mill. In fact, he shares it with Pawan Yadav, Hiralal Paswan and his brother-in-law, and Raj Kumar Yadav. While Raj Kumar has gone back home, the others are all around this evening. Their neighbour Sanjay Verma has also joined them. A pot of rice sits on the stove at the far end of the room, and Vishnu is arranging the utensils in which to cook the dal (lentil soup) as an accompaniment to the rice. He came back from the railway station an hour ago after dropping off his younger brother who had come visiting from their home in Gonda.
As the evening progresses, I interview Pawan about his life and work in Ludhiana. The others sit back and relax. Sanjay watches videos on his mobile. Vishnu chats with his wife. They have only met during the wedding as they observe gauna, a custom according to which husband and wife live together only after they have both reached a certain age. Moreover, since Vishnu lives in Ludhiana for most months during a year, and she is studying for her BA, they thought it best that she lives in her natal home rather than at his.
7:30 p.m.: Rachit calls me and asks to speak to Vishnu. Vishnu refuses, since he is still chatting.
8:00 p.m.: Vishnu completes his call, and returns Rachit’s message. I have completed interviewing Pawan for now and ask if I can interview Vishnu. He agrees, on condition that I do not ask him about his work at the Flour Mill.
“My family does not know that I work at a mill. What will they think? What will my wife think? So much of my time is spent delivering flour bags to customers, riding a cycle rickshaw: you know what that does to man’s masculinity, don’t you?” he asks somewhat shame-facedly.
I assure him that I will neither probe into topics he does not want to discuss nor share the contents of the interview with anyone else without his permission.
9:00 p.m.: We break for dinner. Vishnu insists I join them since Rachit has instructed him to ensure that I have my dinner before I leave. I happily agree.
9:30 p.m.: Rachit finally arrives, after completing various chores in Birjender’s household. Apparently, the monthly holiday is only for the mill workers, not for Rachit whose primary employment is as a driver and domestic help.