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'We just came here for the dinner'

Last updated on: December 28, 2011 16:01 IST's Shubir Rishi visits the MMRDA ground in Mumbai - Anna Hazare's fast venue - late on Tuesday night to get a feel of the mood among the protestors. He shares his experience.

And that's how day one of Anna Hazare's three-day long fast to demand a stronger Lokpal Bill ended. Hazare came atop a truck flanked by his closest aides, spectators came, chanted and went on their merry ways, our Parliamentarians passed the historic Lokpal Bill among a few others after a marathon debate (a little late in the day, but they did anyway) and they went their exhausted ways too.

A little later, the scene at the MMRDA grounds bore a mournful look. The bored-out-of-their-wits cops wave me in without bothering to check my credentials, and I stroll in the press enclave, lined by a mile-long queue of OB vans; their 'contents' milling about the ground, talking loudly in their phones, and smoking in the corners.

"Annaji is sleeping," a very grumpy India Against Corruption activist informs me. "He is tired and not well. Doctors have said they will watch him overnight, and take a decision in the morning." Then without changing the tone, he yelled at another worker, "Khana bacha hai kya? Presswaale pooch rahe the." And then he walks off.

I walk up to a group of journalists listening attentively to Kumar Vishwas, a lead IAC member, speaking to an all fire and brimstone (and very well turned out, considering its 11:30 pm and COLD out there) TV journalist.

"Its Annaji's dictum. He has decided, and we will follow whatever he says," he says in rapid-fire impeccable English. "Don't you think your demands have been a tad too demanding?," the journo says, unblinkingly.

He stares at her, and gives her an oh-come-on-we-have-been-through-that-before look. There is an audible sigh. The journalist looks up at him expectantly. Others watching him hold their breaths. Hell, I hold my breath.

Then he starts rapid firing in Hindi (impeccable, and unaccented, of course), and the crowd kind of thins a bit. They have heard this before. He talks for a non-stop five minutes to the journo who is trying not to cry a little help here, please, and walks away to talk to apparent old TV channel friends. 

I walk up to the area where a weak chant going, over and over again. "Dhinka chika dhinka chika, Anna Hazare!". It's the last surviving group of around 40-odd supporters, who are trying very hard to keep the enthusiasm up, which has dropped as low as the temperature. Two of them spot me, and come close to the fence.

"You guys going to be doing this all night?" I ask. "Are naahi sir, we heard they were serving poori sabzi, and we thought we will sample it." When he sees the incredulous (but knowing) look on my face, (and the sharp nudge his friend gives him too) he hurriedly corrects himself, somewhat sotto voce, "We support Annaji and we are going to be here until the fast is on." Then the friend link fingers and join the chanters again.

I turn back and see TV guys are still going on about the Lok Sabha vote, over and over again. There is really, nothing much to talk about. The IAC people are idling about, with nothing much to do except keep a lookout, and the chants have already become sporadic.  After idly chatting up an old acquaintance at the venue I leave. The very bored cop at the check post barely gives me a glance.

"Ho gaya saa'b?" he says. "Yes sir," I murmur back, and leave. 
Shubir Rishi in Mumbai