1 p.m.: Shailendra visits me in my room. He tells me he returned to Beeja yesterday, after spending a few rather productive weeks in Sargana. Having completed work on the temple, Shailendra informs me that he operated a thresher for a farmer near his home, by the canal in Sargana. He worked for ten-odd days and received 25 kilos each day as wages! Before his departure, Shailendra has applied for a loan to help him purchase a tractor. If this works out and he is able to purchase one, he will lend it to local farmers during their agricultural operations.
Shailendra does not want to work in construction any more. His wife Sunita thinks it too dangerous, and would like him to take up some other employment, preferably in a factory. He has struck an acquaintance with one of Damodar’s neighbours, who is a supervisor in a factory near Delhi. The factory manufactures the packaging in which electric meters are stored when being sold. He wants to work there for at least a year so he can master some skills, he says.
“They will pay me INR 8000 per month. In addition, I will get a place to stay in the factory complex,” he adds.
Work in Barmalipur is yet to commence, Shailendra adds. The jobs in Malerkotla have been assigned to others, leaving Shailendra without any employment at the moment. He hopes to receive a call for work from a contact in Khanna.
Shailendra expresses further worries. In the aftermath of demonetisation, when cash was scarce, he and his cousins had approached one of the many currency exchange entrepreneurs who mushroomed during that period. Queues in banks had been too long and standing in those queues would have meant the loss of at least a day’s wages. They had then deposited INR 36,000 in the old high-denomination currency notes and received from the entrepreneur two cheques of equivalent value, which they thought they could easily deposit in the bank.
However, the cheques have bounced. Shailendra hopes to confront the entrepreneur and have him return his money. But he has discovered, much to his consternation, that the entrepreneur and his enterprise have both vanished.