brother

Post 71, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

7:00 p.m.: Rachit stands at the entrance of the mill, engrossed in his mobile. I ask him what he is up to? He shows me the models of the inverter he has been exploring on the Amazon website. The one he likes, a Luminous model with a battery strength of 15 Ah, costs INR 11,500. But he doesn’t know of any retailer in Sargana’s vicinity who would sell it on the payment of instalments. As he found out a few days ago,  although sellers in Ludhiana would allow him to pay for the device in instalments, he anticipates it would be simply too heavy for him to carry it on the train back.

7:30 p.m.: Rachit and I continue to talk. I ask him about Suraj’s job in Sasaram. Rachit purses his lips before telling me that it was all a scam. Suraj had been promised a job as a security guard. But on reaching Sasaram, he and his father were told the job entailed recruiting members to a marketing network and sell soaps and other washing items. Suraj refused to become involved. Rachit turns back to his phone, now searching for parcel delivery options.

8:00 p.m.: As he mulls over possible solutions, Rachit suddenly realises its times for his favourite teleserial Kalash. The serial has taken an exciting turn, according to him: the female protagonist drowned in a river as a result of foul play a few episodes ago but has now returned in a different body to take revenge against her tormentors.

Post 11, Ludhiana

6 p.m.: I meet Rachit at the entrance of the Flour Mill. He is wearing a striped shirt and a pair of trousers. Today, two of the three pulverisers at the mill are operational. 45-year old Bablu, who usually works at a neighbouring mill, is operating one of the machines. Another person is operating the second machine: I do not recognise him. There’s too much noise from the machines so we don’t talk much. Vishnu and Hiralal have stepped out to deliver the flour to different customers.

6:30 p.m.: Rachit tells me his brother Suraj is well. He will work in Delhi for a few months and then return home, perhaps early next year. He then steps out for some work, telling me he will be back soon.

6:40 p.m.: Hiralal returns from his deliveries. Pointing to the second person (the one I don not recognise), he tells me that is his sister’s husband.

7:00 p.m.: Rachit returns and we step outside. He introduces me to another friend, a fruit vendor Shyam Snehi, whose home is in a village near Rae Bareilley.

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.