Flour mill

Post 81, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

6:00 p.m.: Although Kamal flour mill is abuzz with activity, some changes are discernible. Bablu Yadav left for his home in Gaya a few weeks ago. This morning Mevalal, like Vishnu, also returned to his village in Gonda. Hiralal is unwell. A new worker Om Prakash Pandey, whose home is in a village in Balrampur, has been recruited for a temporary period. Om Prakash worked in a hosiery manufacturing unit till the introduction of the high currency demonetisation late last year. Demonetisation resulted in the collapse of demand, and Om Prakash lost his job. He has now been hired to work in the mill.

6:15 p.m.: Rachit walks into the mill to collect sacks for delivery. He has had a haircut and is clean shaven. Ambika Prasad remarks that Rachit looks like the hero of a Bollywood film. Rachit asks me what I have been up to. I show him my new mobile phone, a Motorola product.

Rachit disapproves. “Why didn’t you buy a Mi mobile? I have been seeing advertisements on TV and they say the company sold one million pieces in one week!”

I tell Rachit that Motorola is a more reliable brand. He holds the phone in his hand, and clicks a selfie. Seeing the selfie, Rachit is more approving of my purchase.

Post 55, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

6:00 p.m.: Rachit is in Model Town, where Harjinder’s wife has gone shopping. All his co-workers are at the mill: Bablu, Ambika, Kalki Prasad and Mevalal. Mansharam arrives in his auto after having completed his deliveries and appears to be in a foul mood:

One gets everything here in Ludhiana: work, money, everything. What one doesn’t get is respect. The younger generation: the m******f****** just do not respect us. They keep addressing us as ‘chawl bhaiya’.

I ask him what chawl bhaiya means. He explains:

They call us bhaiya because that’s what people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are called. Chawal (rice) is our staple diet so they mangle the word chawal and call us chawl. And so we become chawl bhaiya.