Post 81, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

6:00 p.m.: Although Kamal flour mill is abuzz with activity, some changes are discernible. Bablu Yadav left for his home in Gaya a few weeks ago. This morning Mevalal, like Vishnu, also returned to his village in Gonda. Hiralal is unwell. A new worker Om Prakash Pandey, whose home is in a village in Balrampur, has been recruited for a temporary period. Om Prakash worked in a hosiery manufacturing unit till the introduction of the high currency demonetisation late last year. Demonetisation resulted in the collapse of demand, and Om Prakash lost his job. He has now been hired to work in the mill.

6:15 p.m.: Rachit walks into the mill to collect sacks for delivery. He has had a haircut and is clean shaven. Ambika Prasad remarks that Rachit looks like the hero of a Bollywood film. Rachit asks me what I have been up to. I show him my new mobile phone, a Motorola product.

Rachit disapproves. “Why didn’t you buy a Mi mobile? I have been seeing advertisements on TV and they say the company sold one million pieces in one week!”

I tell Rachit that Motorola is a more reliable brand. He holds the phone in his hand, and clicks a selfie. Seeing the selfie, Rachit is more approving of my purchase.

Post 80, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

4:00 p.m.: I meet Rachit outside Kamal flour mill as he makes his way to an electronics shop in the neighbourhood. He informs me that the Bharatiya Janata Party has swept the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly elections. Sounding and looking thoroughly pleased, Rachit hopes this will be the beginning of a new era for that State.

I accompany him to the electronics shop, where Rachit wants to purchase a TV cable. But the shop is out of stock. Rachit then notices a pair of headphones on the counter, and connects it to his mobile to check the sound system. The shopkeeper then connects the headphones to his own iphone and asks Rachit to check out the sound quality. Rachit loves the superior sound quality but cannot not purchase the headphone as he doesn’t have enough money.

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 12, Ludhiana

5:30 p.m.: Rachit and I talk briefly on the phone. He tells me he is doing all the deliveries for the flour mill today, and has been out on deliveries since 12 mid-day.

6:30 p.m.: I am by the entrance to the Flour Mill, chatting with fruit vendor Shyam Snehi. Rachit drives in the delivery autorickshaw, along with Ambika Prasad, who works at the mill with Vishnu and Hiralal. Ambika Prasad gets off at the mill, while Rachit tells me he has one last delivery to make, and will join me in a few minutes.

Ambika and I walk into the mill. Hiralal is packing the flour into 10-kg delivery bags. His shirt is powdered with flour. Visnhu arrives at the same time, from Harjinder’s second mill next door. His black shirt is almost white. He starts sewing the mouths of the bags that Hiralal has filled.

6:45 p.m.: A client has arrived at the counter, where Harjinder is presently managing. The client pays Brijinder, who scribbles the quantity of flour the client has paid for on a piece of paper. The client brings over the piece of paper into the room where we are sitting. Hiralal takes a look at the figure, and weighs out the flour as appropriate, packs up the flour in a delivery bag and hands it over to the client.

7:10 p.m.: Rachit returns from his deliveries. He tells me he has found his brother’s address, which is in his phone. He takes out his Samsung Android, retrieves the address from the memo app in which he has stored it, and sends it over to me via whatsapp.

He heads out to his room to bathe, and will join us in a little while, he says.


8:00 p.m.: Rachit joins us. He has had his bath and completed several other chores for Birjinder’s household. I am about to leave, so he offers to drop me off on his scooty (a light two-wheel automobile) to a convenient point.

8:05 p.m.: As he wheels out his scooty, Rachit calls his brother Suraj on the mobile. He asks if Suraj has returned from work. I can’t hear what Suraj says, but Rachit sounds agitated with whatever his brother’s response was.

“You shouldn’t work so late,” Rachit says. “Leave this job and come to Jallandhar.”

Suraj probably says something about wanting a smartphone, because Rachit tells him, “What will you do with a smartphone. You can’t handle your simple Samsung, how will you manage a smartphone?”

After a pause, he says, “Alright, please wait a few months. When I buy a new smartphone, you can have mine.”

Rachit finishes talking to his brother, and mutters how he never liked Delhi, and wishes his brother sees sense and comes away to Punjab.

He starts his scooty and we drive off to the bridge.