Post 79, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

6:00 p.m.: It is Rachit’s birthday today. Although he has kept quiet about it, he invites me to join him at Kalki Prasad’s room later this evening. He will cook for us, he says.

“What will you cook?” I ask.

“Chicken curry,” he replies and then follows up: “Will you be able to buy the chicken? Kalki won’t be able to leave the mill and I have some deliveries to make.”

I agree immediately to Rachit’s request. He then instructs me to purchase the chicken from a butcher’s shop near the overbridge. I am perplexed because I know of a butcher in the adjacent lane: Bablu Yadav made it a point to purchase meat from him.

“But he is Muslim,” Rachit tells me. “His stuff is no good.”

I persist: “Bablu liked the meat he sold. Said it was fresh and reliable. But I’ll do as you want me to.”

Rachit relents: “Bablu bought meat from him? Hmmm…. In that case, it should be fine.”

8:30 p.m.: Kalki Prasad has started boiling the meat. Rachit arrives with some spices wrapped up in a paper pouch. Birjinder’s wife has gifted it to him. Rachit takes over the cooking while Kalki prepares the rice and Lallan rolls the chapatis.

9:15 p.m.: Dinner is ready and Rachit can’t wait to tuck into the chicken curry served with rice.