Samvari barely looks up: her lean, lithe fingers don't stop working for a second.
Using her thumbs, she pushes the two heavy needles through the PVC panels gripped tightly between her knees. With a sharp tug, she pulls the waxed string through hard, as far as her arms will extend.
At her feet sits a handful of half-finished footballs and a loose pile of leather ellipses: her day's progress and the work still in front of her.
"She likes to help stitch balls," her mother, Madhubala, explains nervously. She is fearful of trouble for having her daughter work. "She's only been stitching a few months."
Samvari's well-practised movements suggest otherwise.
Samvari is 10. Indian law says she must go to school.
"But she doesn't like it there, she cries and runs away and comes home," Madhubala says. Besides, she explains, "our family is poor, we need this money to live, to eat".
From a shelf, Madhubala fetches a tiny red notebook and shows the accounting of her family's pathetic industry. Each ball they sew, she explains, earns them 4.5 rupees - less than 8¢. In narrow columns, each day's labour is accounted in the careful, neat script of the semi-literate.
Some days her family makes 30 rupees, sometimes 40. Never do they make as much as a dollar a day.
Madhubala explains they would get 10 rupees a ball if they collected them from the factory themselves.
But it is too far to walk, so they are reliant on the factory's sub-contractor who has a motorbike, and who comes each morning and evening to deliver panels and collect the finished balls.
The contractor takes the rest of the money. He is making more, but not much. The money is not here, it is at the other, distant end of the supply chain. These balls are bound for Australia.
Madhubala has two daughters younger than Samvari.
When they are old enough, they too will start stitching, she says, though she hopes they might also go to school.
Samvari works ceaselessly and silently. As Madhubala talks, her daughter finishes one ball and moves to the next without pause.
Today, Samvari works on balls bearing the Channel Nine logo and that of The Footy Show, where they will be given away to audience members.
Neither Samvari nor her mother can read properly, so the irony of the slogans written on the balls is lost on them: Supporting Local Footy.
A handful of suburbs away, in Basti Danishmanda, sits Ruby. She is Samvari in a decade.
She works today on a consignment of yellow Sherrin Auskick balls.
On her fingers she wears large leather guards to protect her hands from needles and the coarse, wax-coated string.
Initially, Ruby's father is reluctant to let visitors into the courtyard where she works, seated beside her two sisters-in-law and her mother.
But Ruby is insistent, anxious to tell her story.
Barefoot and perched on a low stool, she is expansive about her work, the industry of the women of almost every family in this suburb.
She talks first of the sore eyes, the cut fingers - holding out her scarred hands - and aching back.
The work, she says, is miserable, the conditions brutal.
"If we stitch for a long time, then we have eye problems, [we get] allergies from the wax [and] headaches,'' she says. ''We have to focus a lot too, it hurts our state of mind."
The money is "completely unreasonable", she says.
For each completed Sherrin, which takes an hour or more to stitch, Ruby is paid seven rupees, about 12¢.
"This company, Sherrin, is wrong because they understand the hard work of the people who stitch, and still they are not helping us. It is unreasonable and unfair."
Ruby was 14 when she was pulled out of school to stitch full-time.
Now 18, she worries this is the only life she'll ever know.
She misses school, her friends as much as the classes, and wishes she could go back, but thinks she's too old now and has lost her chance.
Ruby talks rapidly, almost without drawing breath: thoughts and ideas, hopes and grievances, tumble out almost on top of each other.
Over and over again, she comes back to a single word in Urdu: majburi. Literally translated, ''majburi'' means compulsion, but it has connotations beyond. It implies coercion, and carries a further shade of meaning: a sense of helplessness.
"I left my education because of financial hardship, I had to stitch," Ruby says. "It is only because of compulsion that we do this, there is nothing gained in it. There is no profit, no savings, it is just to keep us alive. We have no other option."
Ruby does not want to stitch any more, but she knows her family depends on the balls she can sew every day. She wants out, but does not know a way.
"I am worried about my future. I don't know what will happen. We are hoping for something good."
The sports ball industry in India is enormous, worth an estimated $1 billion annually.
Nearly 10 million balls were sent from India to Australia last year. Most of those were made in this dusty, hardscrabble city. Many were stitched by children.
But the way the industry works here is opaque.
International sports ball companies, such as Sherrin and Canterbury, don't run factories in Jalandhar. Instead, they have tightly guarded agreements with Indian manufacturers, companies boasting clean, modern factories with addresses such as Football Square and Leather Complex. They have built ''stitching centres'' for workers, with comfortable chairs and airconditioning. The stitchers who work there enjoy a minimum wage and healthcare.
But the centres are not where all the work gets done.
Like so many industries in India, most exist beyond the reach of regulation. Instead, the Indian companies outsource their unskilled stitching work through a byzantine network of suppliers and sub-contractors.
Work that is supposed to be performed ''on site'', at registered, monitored factories, is quietly farmed out to the slum neighbourhoods nearby, and completed in secret.
Chris Lambert, the Australian managing director of Sherrin's parent company Russell Corporation, tells the Herald the use of child labour is abhorrent to the company's ethos, and a breach of its code of conduct.
Most of Sherrin's stitching is performed at a factory run by local company Spartan, which, Lambert says, has signed a supply agreement that outlaws child workers, and is regularly audited for compliance.
Only when the factory is busy is stitching work allowed to be taken outside the walls, and only by sub-contractors who have been audited.
"We run a pretty rigorous corporate social responsibility program … the standards are incredibly high,'' Lambert says. ''This is something we take just, so, so seriously. In the decade we've been dealing with our Indian manufacturers we've had no evidence of child labour."
Rugby brand Canterbury, whose balls the Herald also discovers being stitched by children, has supply agreements with two manufacturers in Jalandhar. Those agreements do not allow for any balls to be made in any part, outside the factory.
"We do not allow sub-contracting, and that is part of the agreements we have with our factories,'' says Canterbury's sourcing manager for Australasia, Jason Law. ''And the reason we don't allow it is because that should stop all of those things, under-age, underpaid workers with no benefits, no health insurance … we will be getting our guys on this immediately, because we do take this very seriously."
Presented with the Herald's findings, both Canterbury and Russell have promised investigations.
But it is economics, not codes of conduct, that shape India's sports ball industry.
In the relentless drive to make cheaper products, using workers at home - and using children - makes economic sense.
There is no minimum wage for stitchers at home, only a rock-bottom price per ball, and the well of workers - unskilled, cheap, young and desperate - is deep.
And along the way, every middleman, every distributor and organiser, takes his cut. There is profit for all, except those at the end of the line.
he families who stitch at home are some of urban India's most vulnerable.
Many cannot read or write. They have no contracts anyway, no union, and are beholden to the sub-contractors who bring them balls to stitch, and who set the prices. If they are injured at work, or fall ill, the balls simply stop coming. So does the money.
Ruby says she sees little from her endeavours.
"The contractor takes five rupees on each ball [for] doing nothing," she says. "They take the money that belongs to us. We are being ripped off by the middleman and by the company. But there is nothing we can do."
Around the corner from Ruby, the Herald finds that middleman.
Rajkumar appears the best-fed man in Basti Danishmanda. Despite his size, he is nervous at our presence and he will not give his surname or allow photographs of his operation.
Sitting in piles that almost overwhelm his tiny ''factory'', and spilling out into a walled courtyard, are thousands of Sherrin panels, awaiting stitching.
His, he says, is an ''unofficial'' stitching centre, a spillover centre from Spartan's main operation.
Balls are sent to him for stitching when the factory is busy.
"They are always busy," he concedes, as half a dozen sacks full of balls are brought to his door.
Rajkumar is aware of the sensitivity around child labour. Signs at Spartan's factory declare, in large letters: "Child labour is strictly prohibited.""But out here, in the houses, children are working; if they want to help their family, then they can," he says.
He says that, rather than exploiting them, the sports ball industry helps India's poorest, by providing them regular, reliable work. "By highlighting this, you will also affect the families, which completely depend on football stitching," he warns. "You are snatching their livelihood."
Child labour activists do draw a distinction between child labour and child work, recognising that, for poor Indian families, the few hours children spend working after school can earn a small, but significant, income that can pay for food, education or medicine.
"But when working at stitching stops children from going to school, from doing their homework, or from playing, from being a child, then it is child labour, it is child abuse," the Jalandhar co-ordinator for the child advocacy group Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Dinesh Kumar, says.
Families who stitch balls are vulnerable to exploitation, he says, and removing children from school, and putting them to work, locks them into a life of poverty.
"These families stitch balls at home and get 10 rupees per ball,'' Kumar says. ''The contractor gives that ball to the company for 50 rupees. Then the company exports it with a price tag from 300 to 3500 rupees. The margins go to them, all that money is taken by the contractors and companies."
There are scores of companies, domestic and international, whose balls are stitched by children in Jalandhar. None of them can claim ignorance.
More than a decade ago, during the 1996 European Football Championships, global attention on sports ball production produced the Atlanta Agreement, outlawing the use of child labour in Pakistan's stitching industry.
A similar agreement promised for India never materialised. Organisations such as the Sports Goods Foundation of India were established, with a brief to monitor child labour and encourage children back into school, but have been, at best, a qualified success.
The foundation itself runs six schools for 300 former child stitchers, but the problem is many times larger than its resources.
Legislative changes, such as the Right to Education Act, and soon-to-be-law amendments to the Child Labour Act, have reduced the number of child labourers in India. But UNICEF estimates 28 million children under 14 still work. And in the case of sports ball stitching, the attention of recent years has driven the practice underground.
Where once children sat on a front stoop with their mothers, or in groups in communal courtyards, now, their labour is secret, hidden behind closed doors in Jalandhar's labyrinthine alleys.
Children work inside, often in the dark, Dinesh Kumar says.
In stitching sports balls, children are not just another pair of cheap hands, they are a valued resource.
The final few stitches on a football are very tight, and children's small fingers are able to reach in to pull the needles through. Children have sharper eyesight too, which is all the better for threading needles.
Back in Basti Danishmanda, the contractor has brought Sherrins today. Yellow all-weather Auskick balls, bright new and emblazoned with the livery of the AFL.
Sitting in the dark of their family's one-room house, starkly lit by a single bare bulb, 11-year-old Sunali and her 10-year-old sister, Rupa, stitch silently while their mother, Laxmi, looks after their infant sister.
In years previous, soccer balls were brought to this suburb with panels reading ''no child labour'', to be stitched on by children.
When the irony became too gross to bear, rather than stop using child labour, the manufacturers simply stopped printing the words on the panels.
The Sherrins Sunali and Rupa stitch do not mention child labour.
A small inscription, "Made in India", near the lace holes, is the only nod to the balls' provenance.
Together, Laxmi and her daughters stitch 15 balls a day, for 105 rupees, about $1.85.
Sunali used to go to school but doesn't now. The money she earns stitching is "very low", but her family needs every rupee, Laxmi says.
"It is difficult [to keep them at home], but to eat, to feed my family, I have no choice,'' she says. ''We have to do this."
Their health suffers. Sunali is unwell with a headache today.
"I am concerned, but if we stop stitching balls, what can we eat?"
Sunali stitches six days a week. Despite her familiarity with the Sherrin, she doesn't know Australian football, she has not heard of the AFL or of Auskick, and doesn't care how the game is played.
She won't use this ball. It's a toy for another child, in another place.