jacket

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 58, DMC Hospital, Ludhiana

3 p.m.: Rachit calls me from DMC hospital, where he is attending to Birjinder’s aunt. He is getting bored and wants me to come over and keep him company.

3:45 p.m.: Rachit and I meet at the parking lot of the hospital. He is wearing a black jacket and a pair of jeans. He is leaving for Birjinder’s home in Abdullahpur Basti and asks me to come with him. I sit behind him on his scooter, and we drive away. On the way, he informs me that his brother Suraj is contemplating return to their home in Bihar.

“He earns INR 7000, but spends nearly INR 5500 per month. So what is the point of his continuing to work in Delhi if he can only save INR 1500 per month?” Rachit asks me and continues: “In the last four months, he has sent a mere total of INR 6000.

“Somebody we know in the village has offered to recommend him for the job of a guard in Patna, so let’s see what comes of it,” he adds.

Rachit plans to purchase an inverter, a device that backs up electric supply in the event of a power failure. He has identified a shop in Ludhiana that allows customers to buy on payment of instalments, but he is worried about carrying such a heavy load on the train. He asks me to enquire if I know of any establishment in Patna that might sell inverters and allow customers to pay in instalments.

4:15 p.m.: Birjinder’s wife calls Rachit and asks him to hurry home. Rachit assures her he is on the way and mutters: “The slightest delay annoys them,” before speeding up.