He was all muscle and bone, with not a milliounce of loose flesh. And though close on 60 years of age, he was slogging away in the fields of Rayagada, Odisha, for a pittance. This was in 2001, and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme had not yet come into existence. His stance and rhythm were  eye-catching. He and other labourers  were digging at a Food for Work site, preparing it for tree plantation,  when our band of travellers stopped by.

P. Sainath is the founder editor of the People's Archive of Rural India. He has been a rural reporter for decades and is the author of 'Everybody Loves a Good Drought'.

Other stories by P. Sainath