Delhi

Post 12, Ludhiana

5:30 p.m.: Rachit and I talk briefly on the phone. He tells me he is doing all the deliveries for the flour mill today, and has been out on deliveries since 12 mid-day.

6:30 p.m.: I am by the entrance to the Flour Mill, chatting with fruit vendor Shyam Snehi. Rachit drives in the delivery autorickshaw, along with Ambika Prasad, who works at the mill with Vishnu and Hiralal. Ambika Prasad gets off at the mill, while Rachit tells me he has one last delivery to make, and will join me in a few minutes.

Ambika and I walk into the mill. Hiralal is packing the flour into 10-kg delivery bags. His shirt is powdered with flour. Visnhu arrives at the same time, from Harjinder’s second mill next door. His black shirt is almost white. He starts sewing the mouths of the bags that Hiralal has filled.

6:45 p.m.: A client has arrived at the counter, where Harjinder is presently managing. The client pays Brijinder, who scribbles the quantity of flour the client has paid for on a piece of paper. The client brings over the piece of paper into the room where we are sitting. Hiralal takes a look at the figure, and weighs out the flour as appropriate, packs up the flour in a delivery bag and hands it over to the client.

7:10 p.m.: Rachit returns from his deliveries. He tells me he has found his brother’s address, which is in his phone. He takes out his Samsung Android, retrieves the address from the memo app in which he has stored it, and sends it over to me via whatsapp.

He heads out to his room to bathe, and will join us in a little while, he says.

 

8:00 p.m.: Rachit joins us. He has had his bath and completed several other chores for Birjinder’s household. I am about to leave, so he offers to drop me off on his scooty (a light two-wheel automobile) to a convenient point.

8:05 p.m.: As he wheels out his scooty, Rachit calls his brother Suraj on the mobile. He asks if Suraj has returned from work. I can’t hear what Suraj says, but Rachit sounds agitated with whatever his brother’s response was.

“You shouldn’t work so late,” Rachit says. “Leave this job and come to Jallandhar.”

Suraj probably says something about wanting a smartphone, because Rachit tells him, “What will you do with a smartphone. You can’t handle your simple Samsung, how will you manage a smartphone?”

After a pause, he says, “Alright, please wait a few months. When I buy a new smartphone, you can have mine.”

Rachit finishes talking to his brother, and mutters how he never liked Delhi, and wishes his brother sees sense and comes away to Punjab.

He starts his scooty and we drive off to the bridge.

Post 10, Ludhiana

5:45 p.m.: I am at Guddu’s vegetable kiosk not far from Ratan Flour Mill. I have just spoken to Rachit on the phone. Rachit will be here in ten minutes. As I wait for Rachit, Guddu tells me that his monthly income is just not enough to meet even basic expenditures.

6:15 p.m.: There is a slight drizzle. Rachit arrives at the grocery. He has been very busy. Indeed, he is always busy. At the mill, there’s always something to do. He and his co-workers get one day off in a month, the last Monday of each month. He tells me his brother Suraj is now working at a factory in Delhi which manufactures agarbattis (incense sticks).

We walk down the alley towards the flour mill. Rachit hails a 55-year old man and starts talking to him about a delivery. He tells me the man’s name is Bablu and he works at a neighbouring mill.

Rachit and I reach the flour mill. Birjender is not at the counter today. His younger brother, Surinder, is. Rachit ignores Surinder and walks right in. Once inside, he mutters that he is not on speaking terms with Surinder, but doesn’t tell me why. Vishnu is sitting on an upturned drum filling flour into plastic delivery bags. I also meet 30-year old Hiralal, whose home is in a village near Gorakhpur, UP. Rachit sews the mouths of the bags with a sewing machine. Hiralal them up by the side of the room.

After a while, Rachit leaves to go to his room which is on the third floor of Harjinder’s house. I stay on chatting with Vishnu and Hiralal.

Post 9, Ludhiana

12 noon.: I am at Ratan Flour Mill, owned by Birjender Singh, Rachit’s employer. Birjender’s sister is in town, so Rachit is chauffeuring her and her family to the town’s malls. Birjender tells me that he hired Rachit on the recommendation of his brother-in-law, for whom Rachit had briefly worked. He says Rachit is like family and that he completely trusts Rachit with his family and even business matters. Thanks to Birjender’s efforts, it appears, Rachit obtained a driving license in Ludhiana.

2 p.m.: Rachit is free from his chores for a while. He introduces me to the workers at the flour mill, with whom he appears to enjoy a good rapport. Only two workers are in the mill at the moment. One of them is Jagat who is about 50. The other is 30-year old Vishnu. Both are from UP. Although they work at the mill, they make it a point to go back to their rural homes from time to time.

2:30 p.m.: Rachit tells me his brother Suraj is in Delhi. Although both travelled together to Ludhiana, Suraj preferred to go further afield to Jalandhar where he planned to work as a construction labourer. However, he changed his mind within a few days and travelled instead to Delhi, where he is working as a construction labourer for a retail outlet in Khajuri Khas, a town in North-East Delhi.