friend

Post 73, DMC Hospital, Ludhiana

5:00 p.m.: Birjinder’s aunt has now been shifted into the General Ward. A marked improvement in her health is discernible. Rachit sits by her bedside and brews a glass of lemon juice for her.

5:45 p.m.: Rachit receives a call on his mobile. Birjinder’s aunt is asleep so he speaks in hushed tones. The call is from his friend Saroj who plies an autorickshaw back in Sargana. He talks alternatively to Saroj and with Saroj’s fiancée, whom he calls “rickshaw-vali” in a reference to her husband’s occupation. After a while, he looks away and speaks in even more hushed tones. The call lasts nearly an hour.

6:45 p.m.: Rachit hangs up and turns around. Birjinder’s aunt is still asleep. Rachit informs me that he was also chatting with Saroj’s sister-in-law. I am slightly perplexed.

“Didn’t you say you didn’t talk to her any more?” I enquire.

Rachit smiles and appears to blush but does not say anything.

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 8, Ludhiana

5:30 p.m.: Rachit is standing by his employer, Birjender Singh at the latter’s shop. Birjender owns a flour mill and sells flour to individuals and establishments across Ludhiana. While he is attending to his customers, Rachit and I step outside for a while. Rachit introduces me to Guddu, a vegetable vendor, whose stall is just a few steps away from Birjender’s flour mill. Guddu’s parents migrated from Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh before he was born. Rachit says Guddu is one of his several friends in Ludhiana.