The chief minister asked me to contact Mr. Sharad Pawar and check how much weight he had lost in his dawn-to-dusk fast yesterday.
So, early in the morning, I went to his house. Mr Pawar was having subudana vada, pahua with lime, and missal. He was looking a litted peaked, the shoulders were hunched, the wrists looked thinner, the large round face smaller. "Mr. Pawar, have you lost any weight?" I asked.
"Well, I lost one stone and four pounds. How much does that come to in kilos? But the situation had become so serious in the country, because of the National Front government's lack of political will to solve problems, that I had to sacrifice a few pounds," Mr. Pawar said.
Mrs. Pawar brought from the kitchen puri-bhaji. Mr. Pawar broke the puris on the top, pushed the potatoes inside, then blew on the puri to cool it, and pushed it into his mouth. I waited till he had finished, then asked: "When did you actually start losing weight, in the morning or in the afternoon?"
"It is difficult to say. There was a steady loss of weight throughout the day, but it increased towards the afternoon. By dusk, I was losing weight at a frightening pace," he said. "Still, if it brings down the prices, it has been worth the loss. And I am confident tis will force the National Front government to bring down the prices."
Srikhand was brought from the kitchen, along with fresh puris. As Mr. Pawar was digging into this, I asked: "Did the heat contibute to your weight loss?"
"Naturally, it did. You must remember, we are at the height if summer. We would have been happy to postpone the fasting to a later date, but the high command decided on the date. As you know, the high command also fasted ub New Delhi, where the temperature is even higher, though the humidity is much less."
Mrs. Pawar brought from the kitchen freshly-made bajra rotis with lassan chutney and raw onions. The aroma was divine. I asked: "Are you planning to buy a new wardrobe to fir you now that you have lost so much weight?"
Mr. Pawar paused for a few minutes before answering, either because he was masticating the bajra or because he was thinking, then said: "As you know, I always wear loose clothes, so they will be a little more loose. I don't think I will go for a change in wardrobe, unless they have come decent shops in Australia."
Mrs. Pawar brought tea from the kitchen. "Chai ghel, na?" she asked me. I said, no, thanks, and left.
When I returned to the office, the chief said: "Now contact Mr. Murli Deora and find out how much weight he has lost. As it is, he does not have much weight."
So I rang up Mr. Deora's residence for an appointment. Mrs. Deora said: "I don't know where Murli is, he seems to have disappered."