Post 37, Beeja, Ludhiana

2:00 p.m.: Shailendra has arrived into Khanna, a few kilometres away from Beeja, with great difficulty. Today is Vishwakarma Puja, a festival dedicated to the celestial craftsman Vishwakarma: workmen worship their tools and machines today and allow them to ‘rest’. Therefore, few tempos plied on the road. Shailendra requested a tempo driver who was driving his vehicle towards Nabha for repairs to give him a lift: that is how he got to Khanna, where he is purchasing a rucksack. Since state-run buses are plying, he expects the ten-minute journey from Khanna to Beeja to be easy.

3:00 p.m.: I wait for Shailendra and his friends at the Beeja bus stand. Soon enough, a bus stops. I recognise several of Shailendra’s friends, who work in a neighbouring site for Damodar, disembark: among them is Mantu, one of Sandeep’s seven brothers. Mantu has purchased a blanket for their home: he will ask Sandeep to take it with him when the latter leaves for home the following day, November 1.  

3:10 p.m.: Shailendra and his cousins (Pradeep’s sons) Rajendra and Deepak arrive in another bus. Shailendra shows me the blue-coloured bag he has just bought, while Rajendra discusses with the others the woollens and jeans he and his brother have purchased to take home with them. They all purchase some gutkha (tobacco flakes) from a kiosk nearby and we head towards the Beeja gurdwara under construction.

4:00 p.m.: Mantu cycles over to Manjhi Sahab gurdwara where Shailendra’s brother Birendra is staying: Birendra and Sandeep are travelling together the following day. Since Sandeep has already left for Ludhiana, he hopes to hand over the blanket to Birendra. However, the caretaker of the gurdwara informs him that Birendra has already left for Ludhiana, from where he will board the train early next morning. A disappointed Mantu urges a younger colleague to head out to Ludhiana on the next available bus and give the blanket to either Birendra or Sandeep.

5:30 p.m.:  Shailendra, Mantu and the others proceed to leave Beeja for the gurdwara at Balmraripur. As we walk past the Manjhi Sahab gurdwara, Mantu points to the building and tells me that he and Shailendra had been part of the team that had constructed it, way back in 2002.

“Lets go in,” I urged, but both Shailendra and Mantu declined. “We have gutkha in our mouths. It would be inappropriate.”