January 19, 2020
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Bull's Eye

An editor telephoned. "Our reporter fell sick, can you take his place?""What's the assignment?""An atmosphere story from drought areas. ...

Bull's Eye

An editor telephoned. "Our reporter fell sick, can you take his place?"

"What's the assignment?"

"An atmosphere story from drought areas. Something positive, to keep up morale.The state government will provide a helicopter. You'll have a photographer. What wewant is the reaction of people in drought areas on the national crisis."

"National crisis? Gotcha." I talk trendy with editors.

The chopper flew us to a village in Saurashtra. We landed in a field next to somedeserted mud huts. In a corner stood a dried-up tree, looming menacingly over a brickhouse. It looked like the panchayat office. In its sparse shade sat 50-odd men, women andchildren. As we approached, the photographer started clicking his camera. The villagerswere shrivelled. Their eyes seemed lost in dark caverns of a world within.

I cheerily greeted them. A turbaned old man silently raised his hand. Probably thevillage headman. "No water, eh?" I shook my head. "I know how you all feel.We have the same problem in Delhi. Sometimes there's no water in the taps!"

They were all silent. A baby cried weakly, briefly.

I got down to business. "Look," I said, "I want to know what you peoplethink of the national crisis."

I turned to the headman. "You sir. What do you think of match-fixing? You approveof great players like Tendulkar and Azharuddin being questioned?"

The headman looked at me blankly.

"You know about Tendulkar and Azharuddin, don't you?" I asked sharply."You must be watching Doordarshan?"

They remained silent.

"You know, the two who drink Coke and Pepsi all the time!" I saidimpatiently.

"I have seen Coca-Cola," a thin youth suddenly said very proudly. "Theysell it at railway stations."

There was a faint stirring in the crowd. "They don't drink water?" theheadman asked.

"Of course they do," I laughed. "Quite often. But mostly from a bottle.Well, doesn't anyone have something to say about match-fixing?" We walked backto the helicopter. "Let's try the next village," I said.

"Water tankers have reached there," the photographer said. "It could bedangerous."

"Why dangerous?"

"People in that village will be stronger. When they hear you they might kill us."

A corrupt game
Fills us with shame.
A corrupt nation
Is another equation.

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