driver

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 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.