My first train journey ' the favorite topic of essay writing during our school days has long been derailed. The subject matter of the present journey is our own minister's first village visit. This young and youthful minister has been bred on foreign soil visualizing India as a conglomeration of semi-naked slum dwellers. Of course looking to today's fashion shows ,beauty pageants and page three people he is not entirely wrong also in his perception.
Hon'ble minister, henceforth referred to as HM, travelled in chartered flight to the nearest airport. In the VIP lounge of the airport the entourage was liberally treated to both bouquet and buffet. Little did they know that both had been airborne from the capital itself. Press conference was organized where HM briefed the already briefed journalists as to how the development of the state was his highest priority. With all the niceties, mood was set and HM boarded the state chopper for air-dashing to the District headquarter. Collector of the district with his family welcomed the minister and reeled out lots of well-rehearsed lies and other statistics as to how .003 % of the rural population has crossed over the poverty line. Project report of sewerage system on the lines of one existing in France is at final stages awaiting water supply problem in hand to be combated. Due to sheer illiteracy the villagers fail to discriminate between potable and cattle bathing water. Therefore, by the end of next year American agency will be engaged to supply mineral water by the turn of century. The scheme has just been cleared by the cabinet during the last monsoon session of parliament which saw more walk-outs than walk-ins. Now the only complication remains to be sorted out is of electricity supply. Once the MOU with Japan is signed electricity will flow unabated and the whole village will bathe in neon signs, fluorescent tube lights and sodium lamp posts. Villagers are keenly looking forward to watch Fashion TV, hear music system and own microwave and refrigerators, of course, on zero percent EMIs .The day is not far off when Kheda village will have the largest electronic consumer market on this side of the dark continent. HM was visibly impressed and said 'well done !' Now it was collector's turn to appear visibly thankful and filled with gratitude. He started working on hitherto hidden agenda of getting plump UN posting.
As soon as the HM alighted from his limo villagers were delighted .They waived ,shrieked and shouted slogans welcoming him. Younger lot was busy in ogling at his Rolex gold watch, Gucci shoes and long car longer than any of their bullock carts. HM was sweating profusely, wiping his face for the nth time which by now had turned redder than radish. He asked 'Young ladies! you have no water problem now, I suppose'. Village damsels, as they are, started non stop giggling without even properly hearing the HM much less understanding what the question was all about. HM repeated the question 'I believe no water problem now'. They all in chorus replied in negative adding 'Just 10 miles from here flows the river otherwise the village has an improvised pond also which is favorite between both, ones looking to commit suicide and the ones looking for bathing their cattle. HM waived at his secretary who immediately scribbled the need for two separate ponds. HM was wondering why these villagers do not go for aqua-guard. Suddenly, he remembered lack of electricity'the root cause of present state of affairs .He made a mental note to award a contract to the MNC, which met him last week offering infrastructural support. HM's second query was more mundane 'Do you take protein rich food, balance diet is a must for people living in this part of the country' They answered 'we do eat pudina chutney once a week and on remaining days we eat roti with red chillies and salt.' HM cut them short 'No ! no ! I am not talking about starters' Local MLA had to explain 'Sir they are describing their main course only and not starters' 'O! O! they are weight conscious! Bravo ! ' HM exclaimed. ' I am impressed' he quipped. 'Green chillies or red chillies ?' HM wanted details 'Red chillies ' pat came the reply. 'Why don't they simply use puree or paste, how many precious man-hours are lost in preparing chutney, day in day out' he moaned. 'What are the consumption figures of pizza, hamburger, frankies, noodles and hotdogs on weekends' he really wanted to go to the bottom of their amazing food habits. He was informed 'their fast food is sattu'. At this HM lost his temper 'What shit ! how unhygienic, country is going to dogs, country's precious man-hours are lost in this only, how the hell can they ever hope to progress'. HM was upset beyond redemption. He returned to the capital.
Next day, newspapers were full of headlines and photographs of the tour, giving highlights of the successful tour. In one picture HM was holding a naked boy in his lap, in the other he was being garlanded by village damsels. In yet another he was cutting ribbon, next pulling lever of water pump, then patting the cattle. He inaugurated half a dozen projects, announced a dozen new schemes. Editorials were full of HM's address to the villagers, which inter-alia had reference to 'health is wealth, AIDS, internet, globalization ,international terrorism and SARS. He was moved by the plight of the villagers, so much so that he has decided to 'adopt' the village, whatever that means.
Villagers were happy as never before. They were busy singing, dancing, and celebrating till late in the night . For months to come they would talk about the function and HM's visit. After all each one was given five rupees and women were gifted Party's flag colored scarf in addition. The group of girls chosen to sing welcome chorus and garland the HM was happier for they had, in addition, received a perfumed toilet soap ,that too the imported one.
The tour indeed was a BIG SUCCESS !