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."
"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.