Post 7, Sargana to Muzaffarpur

8:00 a.m. It is a cloudy day. I reach Shailendra’s house as instructed the previous night. Shailendra and his cousins Sundar and Chand are ready to depart, their bags packed and hauled over their shoulders. Along with their family members, they begin walking to the main road. Shailendra’s daughter refuses to leave him, so he carries her as he walks. I take a detour as I want to pick up my own backpack.

8: 15 a.m. We reach the main road. The contractor Damodar emerges from one of the alleys, his bags packed and ready to leave. We have missed the 8 a.m. bus to Saharsa, so we wait for the next available transport. Eleven of us are travelling today. Shailendra shows me his fingernails, which have been painted pink and purple. I then notice the nailpaint on his and his cousins’ fingernails. Shailendra tells me his wife Sunita applied it the night before. Although they both know the paint will be no match for the cement with which Shailendra will soon be working, at least he will be able to look at his fingers throughout the journey and remember her.

9:00 a.m. Shailendra hails an auto to a halt. Damodar asks him to book the auto till Jadiya, ten-odd kilometres to the west. The nine of us pack ourselves into the auto along with our bags. We goodbye to their relatives. Although everyone is sad, they all realise they have to move on, so the auto leaves quickly.

10:00 a.m. We reach Jadiya, where we board the bus to Saharsa. It rains on the way. We sit close together, but no one really talks to one another. Probably, they are thinking about their families and about the work that awaits them.

12:30 p.m. We reach Saharsa. The train will leave in a few hours, but we have to purchase tickets first. Since the counter for purchasing tickets has yet to open, Damodar tells us to procure enough water to last us through the journey. Shailendra asks me to accompany him as we go looking for a large container which we could fill with drinking water- buying bottles of mineral water for eleven people would be too expensive, he agreed. Eventually, however, Shailendra finds two empty three-litre bottles at a grocery shop, buys them off the grocer and fills them with water for our journey.

1: 30 p.m. Shailendra joins the rest of his co-sojourners in the train after purchasing tickets for all of them (and me). The train is yet to be assigned a platform and has been temporarily stationed on the tracks about a kilometre away from the station. Anticipating a huge crowd, Damodar has asked the others to occupy eleven seats in the unreserved compartment in which we are travelling, since our tickets do not guarantee seats. Tickets cost INR 350, and Damodar has already paid Shailendra for these. The compartment has a total of 99 seats. At this point, there is more than enough room for everyone. We eat lunch, which Shailendra and his cousins have brought from home: puris (unleavened deep-fried bread) with a vegetable curry.

3:30 p.m. The train finally takes its place at the station, and arrives at the designated platform. About sixty people boarded the compartment in which we sat. Shailendra decided to take up his place on the top berth before it was occupied by others. That way, he could sleep in peace.

4:00 p.m. The train departs from Saharsa, as scheduled.

5:00 p.m. We arrive at Samastipur. The compartment is now packed with people. But everyone finds a place to sit, either on the seats or on the floor.

9:00 p.m. Muzaffarpur. We eat dinner: the puris and vegetable curry left over from lunch. Shailendra remains perched on his top berth since there was no place for him to sit on the seats beneath.