Post 85, Ghumar Mandi, Ludhiana

6:30 p.m.: Rachit picks me up on his motorcycle on his way to Ghumar Mandi, from where he has been instructed to purchase a patta, the cloth used for tying a turban. Birjinder’s ten-year old nephew needs one, so Rachit has been sent for this errand. I accompany Rachit to a shop Ghumar Mandi with which he seems very familiar. The shopkeeper tells us the patta will be ready in 20 minutes.

Rachit is peckish, so we step over to a mobile kiosk where they sell grilled sandwiches. The brothers who operate it tap electricity from overhead wires and use it to heat the grill. Rachit and I share a sandwich. Rachit tells her he is eating a sandwich while the patta is being prepared. He goes on to elaborate that the sandwich is very tasty and asks her if he should buy some for her and her family. She probably says yes, because once he disconnects, Rachit asks the kiosk operators to pack a couple of sandwiches for him to take.

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.