excitement

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 39, Bharatnagar

10:00 p.m.: Rachit and Dasharath meet me at the gates of the Government College. The college is hosting the PTC Mr Punjab Grand Finale, a singing reality show at which singers will compete for the title of Mr. Punjab. Although the show will be telecast, Rachit has been enthusiastically talking about attending this event, which is free and open to the public, from the morning. However, he did not know till late this evening whether Birjinder would permit him to attend: Birjinder’s wife knows that Rachit loves this program, so she let him go once he had finished all the household chores for the day.

Although the event revolves around solo performances by the ten contestants, a plethora of celebrities have been invited to dazzle the audience. We arrive nearly four hours after it started at 6 p.m. We catch a performance by the singer Harbhajan Singh Mann and then watch the contestants showcase their talent. Not only do they sing and/ or dance, the contestants also have to answer questions posed to them by a panel of judges. Almost all candidates highlight their ‘Punjabiyat’- their affiliation with Punjabi culture, the greatness of that culture and their being genuine sons of the soil. A recurring theme in the show is the ways in which Punjabi culture has shaped Bollywood: “without Punjabis there can be no Bollywood,” was a theme expressed by more than one participant.

Rachit thoroughly enjoys the two hours that we spend here. He sings along with the singers, although he particularly enjoys the penultimate song. He has eaten dinner, so does not join Dasharath and me for snacks. We click numerous selfies. Finally a little after half-past eleven, the winner of the Finale is announced. Although there are only about a hundred people at the event, the ambience remains electrifying throughout the evening.