There is a slight drizzle. I reach Shailendra’s house, my backpack ready for our journey. However, I can only hear his voice and see his cousins, who were supposed to travel with him, sitting around the wooden cot in the courtyard. Dharmendra, one of the cousins, demands, “Rs 500 is too little. Bhrameshri (the contractor) must pay us at least Rs 600 as advance.” Dharmendra’s brother Mahendra disagrees, “No no, at least Rs 10000. Otherwise we will not go.”
Shailendra is flabbergasted. He emerges from his house, obviously ready for the journey, and pleads with his cousins: “The contractor is coming with us. Why are you worried about money? The bus will leave soon. Let us go and sort this out on the way.”
But he fails to convince his cousins. The only one agreeable to travel with him is his neighbour Sandeep.
After an hour of high drama, Shailendra and I go to Bhrameshri’s house where the contractor is perhaps expecting such a scenario. On hearing Shailendra’s report, he asks him and Sandeep to travel as scheduled, while he mobilises labour from neighbourig villages. But Shailendra remains silent.
Bhrameshri understands: “You want to wait till you have harvested the sunflower crop?”
Bhrameshri mutters something under his breath and rolls his eyes. They agree that Shailendra and his cousins will leave the following Friday.