He is dressed in formals but, is wearing a mask and powdering chilies.
I wait for him to finish his work and then ask him if it is fine if I write about him and the flour mill. He proudly asks why he would have a problem with someone writing high of his work.
He tells me that he will talk to me after he’s through with the customer. I follow him around to take some pictures, realizing that standing inside the mill for even a few minutes has put me into a coughing fit and wondering how they work there throughout the day.
Once he is done, we sit down to talk. He tells me that he has been doing this since he was ten. As a kid, he used to help his father in the mill, when he returned from school. After learning everything about its maintenance and working he opened his own mill in 1994. The mill has been running successfully ever since.
I ask him if they ever have recession periods. He says that the only recession they faced was when people started shifting to packed powders in the market. And notes that this period lasted only for a couple of years, following which people understood the damage caused by such packed flours and powders. He goes on to say that such recession periods do not affect him much as profits are not his only motive but, service is, too. I ask him what he thinks about the occupational hazards. He states that neither has he experienced any such problems nor has he seen his father suffering. He goes on to say that his lungs could be affected and that he wouldn’t know anything about it until he gets checked. Hearing impairment and psychological problems due to loud noises and lung congestion due to inhalation of minute particles of flours and powders are the most common problems that people in this sector of the society face. Unfortunately, though, nothing has been done to reduce such problems. He is saddened by the fact that people fail to realize such problems and make a fuss when he increases the rates in his mill. He tells me about a man who wrote a letter to their Association about the ‘unnecessary increase in prices due to increase in Electricity bill’.
He agitatedly tells me that he cannot increase prices every time the Electricity Board increase the slabs and needs to wait for consent of their Association. If that doesn’t happen he would have to bear the extra cost off his pocket, thereby reducing his profits. He gives me a list of things, which together will affect the nature of the prices. The list includes the cost of the machinery and maintenance of machinery, the rent for the shop and the salary for employees. This salary, he says, is a minimum of Rs. 500/day. He also brings to notice that all mill owners would have families to spend for and houses to pay rent for. At this I ask him about his family. He tells me about his two children and how he feels proud to have given them education. His son is doing third year in Mechanical Engineering and his daughter has just written her 10th standard examinations. His wife, also the co-owner of the mill, helps in most of the mill’s working through the day. She mostly stays with him in the mill, except when she has some other important work to attend to.
To supplement the income from the mill, he also sells drinking water cans in the neighborhood. This allows him to go steady even when profits from the mill dip a little. I ask him if he finds any free time in between the mill and water cans. He happily replies that on most days the morning is only mildly busy as working people find time only in the evening. So, what does he do in all this free time. “Books.”, he says. He likes reading and reads everything he can get his hands on but, specifically enjoys reading political news and books on politics. I finally ask him if he likes his work. He smiles and says that he loves his work and always puts his heart and hard work into what he is doing. He goes on to say that people usually keep away from mills so, they wouldn’t be dirty at the end of the day but, even with all that he would never stop liking his work. Living around mills from the age of ten has obviously had an impact on him. It has made him fall in love with it and serve the people of the neighborhood, while earning money for himself. His life is made of flour and powder. And he lives his life off flour and powder.