A sort of diary of a TV news reporter aboard an ‘election special’ bus in search of human interest stories to beam in the run-up to the 2009 general election, this perky book is more than just an account of the travails of a wide-eyed young girl from a metropolitan town when pitchforked into the hurly-burly of the Great Election Tamasha. Written in an honest, breezy style—that spares no one, herself included—Sunetra gives a most entertaining account of the time when she and her colleague, Naghma, travelled almost 200 km a day along dusty village roads. With them are the ever-resourceful driver, Ganga Singh (perhaps their Gunga Din), an engineer and some cameramen.
From Rajasthan to Karnataka and from Gujarat to Orissa, these intrepid girls track stories as they deal with rats, mosquitoes and human pests. There are unforgettable, funny encounters with people and politicians. Among them are imperious maharanis, a dejected Laloo, a media-shy Naveen Patnaik and other familiar characters. But almost as interesting are her portraits of common people: the orphan Bhuri in Rajasthan, the ‘fixer’ in Karnataka and the young boys in Bundelkhand fascinated by her English and the hi-tech bus.
It is quite an odyssey and this remains an engaging account largely because the author does not load it with philosophical asides into the grim realities of politics-Indian ishtyle. Sunetra, of the sparkling eyes and flashing dimples, is a gifted writer whose candour and humour make this book a lovely summer read.