exhaustion

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.

Post 48, Kitchlewnagar, Ludhiana

5:30 a.m.: Rachit picks me from Arati Chowk on his way to the Dayanand Medical College, where Birjinder’s aunt Amarjeet Kaur is recovering from a surgery. She has now been shifted to the intensive care unit (ICU). Rachit rides on at full speed and we reach the hospital in ten minutes. Amarjeet’s daughter (Birjinder’s cousin) has been staying with her since the previous evening, and Rachit has come to relieve her and take over the care-giving for a few hours before her husband, Amarjeet’s son-in-law can come. Rachit sits by the hospital bed in the ICU, keeping a constant watch on the monitors that display Amarjeet’s heart beat rates and blood pressure levels. The graph depicting her heart beat frequently plateaus, leading the device to sound out an alarm that calls for the immediate attention of the nurses and attending doctors. Rachit is evidently exhausted and I remain on tenterhooks.

8:00 a.m.: Rachit steps out to the waiting area outside the ICU briefly to catch some fresh air. He stands around this area for about fifteen minutes before hurrying back in.

10:00 a.m.: Amarjeet’s son-in-law arrives at the hospital as scheduled. Rachit and I leave the hospital. We are both hungry and stop near Arati Chowk to eat some chhole bature (a savoury snack consisting of chhole, or chickpeas boiled and cooked in a spicy batter, served with bature, a large flour flatbread).

10:30 a.m.: Rachit drops me to my room and proceeds towards Birjinder’s home.

Post 34, Abdullahpur Basti

6 p.m.: At Kamal flour mill Ambika and Mewalal are preparing sacks for delivery. They are joined today by Dasharath Sahh has just arrived in Ludhiana from his village near Muzaffarpur: his brother works in Abdullahpur. He is about 21 years old. As he is settling in, Dashrath is sharing the room with Mevalal and eating his dinner at Vishnu’s.

Birjinder’s brother is at the counter. He rings a bell to call one of the workers to the counter. As soon as he hears the bell, Mevalal hurries over to the counter. Ambika scoffs:

Each time I hear that bell, I feel like whopping him across the face. Does he think we are sitting idle, not doing any work?

Ambika continues: “He is good-for-nothing. It is his brother Birjinder who does everything for the mill: meeting customers, talking to suppliers, managing workers- everything. This man is useless.”

Vishnu returns from his deliveries and prepares for the next round. He loads almost 80 sacks, each weighing about 10 kilograms onto Mansharam’s auto. Needless to say, he looks exhausted.