savings

Post 86, Arati Chowk, Ludhiana

6:15 p.m.: Rachit comes to my room to look me up: I have been unwell. We sit on the terrace since there is no electricity and the room is too dark.

Rachit informs me that he plans to return to Sargana on May 5. The brother of his friend Santosh, who left for Sagana last month (hyperlink to journal entry 78), might be leaving Ludhiana that day, so Rachit will try to go home with him. I enquire if Birjinder will allow him to leave: as driver, one of Rachit’s responsibilities is to drop off and pick up Birjinder’s children from school.

Downcast, Rachit tells me that Birjinder has asked him to leave. The job. “He told me I am free to go back to Sargana whenever I want. He also told me that when I return, I need not come to his place. Basically, he has sacked me.”

I am stunned. “Hasn’t his wife objected? I thought she relies on you for her shopping needs,” I ask.

“It was her idea,” he replies. “Birjinder’s aunt is moving into their house and will be living on the ground floor. They will have additional expenses and say they cannot afford a driver any more.”

I ask him what he proposes to do.

Rachit sighs: “Birjinder’s cousin Parminder wants me to attend to the old lady (Birjinder’s aunt) once she is discharged from the hospital. He has asked me to work for him.”

I am relieved. “So you will be at the same house, just that your employer will be different,” I clarify.

“Yes, but she will not need caring forever, will she?” Rachit mumbles. He continues wearily: “I wish I had a proper job. I don’t mind being a driver. But it would be nice to have a job where I was required me to be on duty from nine to five.”

Rachit begins to talk about the situation at home. “We are building a house. My father has asked me to send them some money. But I hardly have any savings. I will try to work an additional month for Birjinder: that way I will have more to send home.

“At any rate, if I work for Parminder, I will ask him for a raise. I cannot continue to work for such a pittance.”

Rachit looks at his watch. Its 7:15. He gets up to leave. I walk him downstairs to his scooter.

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.