Post 86, Arati Chowk, Ludhiana

6:15 p.m.: Rachit comes to my room to look me up: I have been unwell. We sit on the terrace since there is no electricity and the room is too dark.

Rachit informs me that he plans to return to Sargana on May 5. The brother of his friend Santosh, who left for Sagana last month (hyperlink to journal entry 78), might be leaving Ludhiana that day, so Rachit will try to go home with him. I enquire if Birjinder will allow him to leave: as driver, one of Rachit’s responsibilities is to drop off and pick up Birjinder’s children from school.

Downcast, Rachit tells me that Birjinder has asked him to leave. The job. “He told me I am free to go back to Sargana whenever I want. He also told me that when I return, I need not come to his place. Basically, he has sacked me.”

I am stunned. “Hasn’t his wife objected? I thought she relies on you for her shopping needs,” I ask.

“It was her idea,” he replies. “Birjinder’s aunt is moving into their house and will be living on the ground floor. They will have additional expenses and say they cannot afford a driver any more.”

I ask him what he proposes to do.

Rachit sighs: “Birjinder’s cousin Parminder wants me to attend to the old lady (Birjinder’s aunt) once she is discharged from the hospital. He has asked me to work for him.”

I am relieved. “So you will be at the same house, just that your employer will be different,” I clarify.

“Yes, but she will not need caring forever, will she?” Rachit mumbles. He continues wearily: “I wish I had a proper job. I don’t mind being a driver. But it would be nice to have a job where I was required me to be on duty from nine to five.”

Rachit begins to talk about the situation at home. “We are building a house. My father has asked me to send them some money. But I hardly have any savings. I will try to work an additional month for Birjinder: that way I will have more to send home.

“At any rate, if I work for Parminder, I will ask him for a raise. I cannot continue to work for such a pittance.”

Rachit looks at his watch. Its 7:15. He gets up to leave. I walk him downstairs to his scooter.

Post 59, DMC Hospital, Ludhiana

7 p.m.: Rachit whatsapps me to ask if I will be free this evening to accompany him to the hospital. I agree.

8 p.m.: Rachit picks me up from my room in Arati Chowk and we drive to the hospital. He is wearing the black jacket he wore yesterday. We reach the hospital in fifteen minutes.

8:15 p.m.: Rachit heads into the ICU where Birjinder’s aunt is admitted. I wait in the area outside. He emerges from inside the ICU with a gate pass and a prescription for an ultrasound which needs to be performed on Birjinder’s aunt. We go downstairs to the reception area where Rachit has to make the payment for the ultrasound. One of Birjinder’s brothers-in-law, Parminder, trusts Rachit with his credit card so that he can make all hospital-related payments with ease. Rachit swipes the card to make the payment of INR 13,500.

8:45 p.m.: Birjinder telephones Rachit to instruct him to stay at the hospital tonight. Although the aunt’s daughter will also be staying, somebody will have to be on call to do any leg work if required.

Rachit and I go to the cafeteria to buy ourselves some coffee. He borrows my power bank so he can charge his mobile through the night.

Post 56, Arati Chowk, Ludhiana

2:15 p.m.: Rachit stops by at my room on his way back from DMC hospital where Birjinder’s aunt remains admitted. He informs me that her health has remained the same. Her relatives have had to return to their respective homes since they cannot be away from work for a prolonged period of time, so it is now his responsibility to provide care for her. He has been at the hospital since the previous night and is now rushing home to pick up Birjinder’s children from school. Once they have been dropped back home, he will drive back to the hospital to attend to Birjinder’s aunt.

3:00 p.m: Rachit glances at his watch and hurries away.

10:30 p.m.: Rachit forwards me the following whatsapp message, which plays on the unique arrangement of digits in today’s date:

Today, people will know that 16.1.17!!

Post 52, Abdullahepur Basti/ DMC Hospital, Ludhiana

8:00 p.m.: Rachit arrives at Bablu’s room where Bablu and I are waiting for him. They planned a small party where Bablu would cook and Rachit would bring the drinks. Rachit has not been able to procure any alcohol so far as he has been busy, so he and I decide to step out and make the necessary purchase. Rachit also needs to print out a project as instructed by Birjinder’s son.

Rachit and I buy a ‘half-whiskey’ and finish his printing jobs to return by 8:30 p.m. Bablu is keen to initiate his nephew Rajesh, who lives in the adjacent room, to drinking alcohol. So, he serves chicken curry as dinner with whiskey as an accompaniment. Rachit needs to be at the hospital by 9 to attend to Birjinder’s ill aunt, so he finishes dinner quickly. He and I bid Bablu and his nephew for the night and leave for the hospital.

Birjinder’s aunt has been shifted out of the ICU to the general ward. Her daughter will be spending the night in the ward with her. She wants Rachit to massage her mother’s feet, which he does. Rachit also steals quick peeks into his mobile to catch up on Kalash, the tele serial he so faithfully follows. By 11:15 p.m., we leave DMC Hospital.

Post 51, Arati Chowk, Ludhiana

7:00 p.m.: Rachit calls me on my mobile. He has just finished attending to Amarjeet Kaur, his employer Birjinder’s aunt who is still intensive care. He will be driving past Arati Chowk and asks me if I am free. I say I am.

Rachit reaches Arati Chowk in ten minutes. He informs me that there is little improvement in Amarjeet’s health. He says he is exhausted and wants to hang around in the locality for about an hour. I suggest we could go to a mall nearby, but he says he does not have the time for that.

“I have to be back in Birjinder’s home by 8. And once I am done with the household chores, I must watch Kalash,” he tells me, referring to a tele serial he follows regularly.