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The helicopter is hovering low over Rampur sky. Jayamma came into the low thatched mud hut and hurried Meenu.
“Hey Meenu, get ready fast and let’s get going. Come fast, I will bathe Chotu and you go wash your face.” she rushed Meenu, picked Chotu and went outside to bathe him.
In fifteen minutes both the friends with their little ones on the hip, were almost running to the fields, where the stage, colorful flags, chairs and mike were set. The helicopter was perched on the helipad; all the kids and adults were trying to get closer to it with curious grins.
At the entrance there stood a man distributing crisp notes, two hundred for adult and a hundred rupee note for the kid. Jayamma and Meenu grabbed the notes and sat on the chairs comfortably.
The election speeches were going on, and the big man, Machi Reddy was speaking in the loud speaker. Every now and then he was bending very low with Namaste and big smile. They heard him telling “if you vote for me I will see that all of you get thirty kilos rice for free every month.”
“Thirty kilos of rice?” Meenu said “Do you hear that? That is a lot and for free? Then we don’t have to work in the fields every day.”
“Yes we can sit and chat whole day at home” Jayamma laughed.
The great grand speech was going on and on. Suddenly they saw a commotion. Somebody opened the Sari truck and started distributing Saris and all the women ran to the truck. After fifteen minutes of pulling and pushing, tramping on one another both friends came out with two nice saris.
“Hey look at this, it is a silk sari” Jayamma was so excited. “You take this red one and give me the blue.” They exchanged the saris and blessed the man who gave them, and then and there decided to give their vote to him. When somebody in the crowd shouted “MachiReddy Jindabad”, both the women joined them whole heartedly.
Clutching the new saris and the new currency notes they headed home.
MachiReddy finished the speech thanked each and every village elder by the name, the volunteers and the audience and embarked the helicopter and was gone.
MachiReddy, son of notorious goon Anki, is the only heir of multimillion dollar real estate business. He also owned several industries and suddenly he wanted fame besides money. So he decided to run for the election. When he checked with his campaign staff they said the approach road to Rampur was very bad with ditches and boulders and the sticky mud makes driving a hell. So the would be minister sent people to build a temporary helipad and rented a helicopter and came to meet the villagers. He sent the truck with silk saris beforehand for the women of the village. After all he should give them something in exchange for the vote.
Same day around four in the evening, Meenu heard somebody knocking the door. When she opened the door she was surprised. There stood a beautiful, gentle, sophisticated elderly woman who looked like the goddess Lakshmi in a bright cotton sari and big bindi on her forehead.
With folded hand the lady started. “Amma, I am Sundari of JaiPraja party. You know I am a woman and you are a woman. A woman only can know other woman’s difficulty. You and your friends should vote for me.” saying that she picked up Chotu, wiped his running nose with her sari pallu and held him in her arms.
Meenu was impressed, “such a nice lady! And so affectionate!” Sundari put Chotu down and took out something from a bag her campaign volunteer was holding. Placed it in Meenu’s hand and said “sister, you have to vote for me.”
Meenu opened the red crepe paper and was spellbound. It was a tiny box filled with kumkum made of pure silver. She could not speak. Her entire life she has not owned anything made of silver. And this nice lady is giving it away to her just for a vote!
“I promise, my vote is for you Amma. You are like my mother “Meenu bent and touched Sundari’s feet.
Then the humble group bade Meenu good bye and left to the next door.
Meenu ran to Jayamma’s house. “Did you also get the silver box? “
“Yes I too got one. We have to vote Sundari amma for sure, such a nice lady so much love in her heart. “Both friends were filled with gratitude.
Sundari and party left the village. Sundari, the wife of ex home minister who was killed a few years ago in what looked like an accident, wanted to do some service to society besides grabbing all land around the rich river basin. She wanted to get into politics just to pave way for her vagabond son and daughter. After all she has to think of their future!
She also did not take car or Jeep to come to Rampur. She has bad back, and everybody in her camp suggested she cannot handle the road journey with those road conditions. So she also rented another helicopter for this campaign.
Before getting back into the helicopter she washed hands carefully with antibacterial soap and wiped them clean. That day she held so many little kids and in that village, wiped their noses “god know what all the diseases those urchins carry.”
It was almost dusk and Meenu finished cooking supper and she saw another group of white clad men coming into her yard. “Now what am I getting? Looks like today is my lucky day. First the silk sari and then the silver box. Now what? It is something golden for sure.”
She welcomed them with broad smile.
“Amma I am Sridhar. We are from the new Freedom party. We came here to ask for your vote. Can we get some water first please?” All of them were out of breath.
“Yes sir of course,” she brought a jug of cold water and some steel glasses.
They thanked for water and started talking.
“Amma, we are the new party. We don’t have many funds. All we are have is hope and we will do good to your village if you vote for us and bring our party to power.” He is going on and on.
Meenu is getting impatient. “What have you got today, at least some money? Looks like these are paupers. I am never going to vote for these beggars “she was thinking.
Sridhar finished his small speech and said at the end, “Amma, All I say is, you will get a school and a hospital for the village and you will get a better road if we win. That is a promise. I saw that the road it is in very bad shape and especially in coming rainy season it will be dangerous and I promise to you, we will see that you get a tar road by next season.”
Sridhar, used to work as a history teacher, always dreamt of a new India. He still believes that someday his country will gain the status of developed country from developing country. He has great faith in people’s power. So he sold whatever little property he had and started a new party with educated, dedicated, progressive thinking, and like-minded youngsters and started the campaign. They could not even afford to rent the car so they walked all the way to Rampur and they now know firsthand what the village needs.
They finished campaign in Rampur and returned to the town on foot.
Meenu sat outside her hut, waited for Koti. She has been poor her entire life. Born to laborers and married to a laborer she has never seen anything rich. Both She and husband Koti work in the paddy fields belonging to somebody and make a modest living on whatever they earn on that day. Sometimes they don’t get any work and have to go on empty stomach. And they have this little kid to feed too. Today it has been wonderful! Unexpectedly she got such expensive gifts and she was so excited and happy. “Let Koti come. I want to see how happy he will be when I show these. “
It was getting late. Meenu is worried. That day Koti went to town to fetch the pesticides. He should be back by eight in the evening. It is ten thirty, still and no sign of Koti.
Then Bala, Jayamma’s husband came and gave the news. While returning from town the truck in which Koti and other villagers were traveling overturned after hitting a boulder and fell in the ditch. He said when they were in town, all the major parties were supplying unlimited free liquors and Biryani packets to everyone and anyone as it is election time. The driver of the truck drank to his fill and in inebriated condition drove the truck straight into a big boulder. They had to fetch another taxi from town and take all the injured back to town as there was no hospital in the village.
“Oh God Hanuman, Ganesha save my husband,” Meenu was beating her chest and started wailing. Jayamma and other neighbors came and consoled her and Bala took her to the town on his bicycle on the same bumpy, muddy dangerous road.
The doctor calmed Meenu and assured that Koti will live and he was out of danger. He said if they brought him a few minutes late, he would have died, as he lost so much blood. And she was very lucky. Sitting by his bed she thanked all the gods she knew and decided who both of them are going to vote and how she is going to convince Jayamma and all her friends in the village.