Narendra Modi

Post 82, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

6:15 p.m.: I greet Birjinder who sits at the counter to the entrance of the flour mill. He asks me how I have been. I tell his I’ve been slightly unwell.

“Oh no- you should have said. We’d have admitted you in the hospital with my aunt. We could have got a discount for an additional patient,” Birjinder says before bursting into laughter.

Reeling from Birjinder’s morbid sense of humour, I walk into the mill, where Om Prakash and Kalki Prasad operate the grinding machine. Om Prakash and Kalki Prasad are also discussing the results of the UP legislative assembly elections. their conversation went along the following lines.

Om Prakash: The BJP won UP because of Modi. He destroyed his opponents completely.

Kalki Prasad: Yes, with Modi at the helm, they did not have a chance.

Om Prakash: Well, you see, he is after all from the Ahir community [reference to the cowherd caste]. He knows a thing or two about wielding lathis (batons).

Kalki Prasad (vehemently): Arre, no way. Modi is not Ahir. He is Teli [reference to the oil-presser caste]. It has nothing to do with caste. Modi is simply brilliant.

Post 38, Ludhiana

5:45 p.m.: I am at the mill, chatting with Dasharath, who weighs the flour before it is packed into sacks. Vishnu spreads out a mat on sealed sacks of bran for me to sit. Dasharath plans to purchase a Jio simcard for his mobile phone since it will allow him a number of free calls. He has so far been using Vishnu’s mobile to make calls, but Vishnu needs the phone far more than he does: after all, Vishnu has to speak to his fiancée the entire day, Dasharath chuckles. He will buy a mobile for himself in about two months.

Dasharath tells me I resemble his cousin brother who lives in Assam, before turning to the next sack of flour.

Vishnu wants to know the price of gold. He asks me to look up the price of gold online: he wants to purchase one tola of gold for his fiancée. A google search indicates that 22 carats of gold cost INR 2700. One tola is almost 11 grams, so a tola would cost nearly INR 30,000, I inform him. Vishnu’s face falls. Muttering that he had hoped prices would have reduced, he goes back to sealing the delivery sacks.

6:15 p.m.: Rachit meets me in the mill. His brother tells him that he has managed to exchange the old 1000 rupee-note which were rendered illegal following the announcement about demonetisation. However, Rachit is not convinced: he will call his uncle later today to confirm.

7:30 p.m.: Bhullan arrives in front of the mill with his vegetable cart. I ask about his well-being. He complains about the losses caused by demonetisation. “Modi has finished my business,” he rues.