07 June 2004 Election Diary

Tandoored Legs

"The outside temperature is thirty-eight degrees," intones the British Airways pilot, as the plane descends into Delhi's International Airport. Thirty-eight degrees at almost midnight? What will it be like in the heat of the noonday sun? I am about to be thrown into five hectic days of election fever, broadcasting from a specially-built studio on the roof of the BBC's Delhi office. Hope the aircon copes. Outside the airport, I'm distracted by several pairs of legs sashaying past in shorts, one pair even in a mini-skirt. Legs on display in Delhi! Things must have changed a lot since my last trip, seven years ago to cover India's 50th anniversary of Independence.

D-day minus one, loads of press interviews lined up, back-to-back. Thankfully, most of the questions are work-related. Why is the bbc sending in a special team to cover the elections? (Because, as the world's biggest democracy votes, our international audience want to follow every twist and turn of the story.) How do I feel about being back in India doing a big story? (Thrilled, hope my Indian background will make a difference when things get complicated.) What do I think will be the result? (Don't want to hazard a guess.) What's the toughest story I've done? (Live coverage of 9/11 attacks; the first couple of hours fell right in the middle of my shift.) The only question that has me stumped is, "What are your strengths?" Funnily, the obvious follow-up question—"What are your weaknesses?"—never comes.

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