Thursday, March 17, 2011

Other side of the Mat

Six young girls and boys. Yellow tee-shirts, blue track pants. Standing on the pavement with a few rubber foot-mats each in their hand. Eagerly looking to their right every few seconds.

"When are they going to start?" One asked wearily.
"They are supposed to start at nine", replied the other.
"It is nine fifteen already, why can't they be on time?" the third one grumbled.
"Why can't we just start now, there are people running?" the first one asked hopefully.

The eldest of the lot turned around to explain,"The ones running right now are long distance runners. They are not going to pay attention to us. They are so few in number anyway. Let's wait for the dream run to begin."

It is all about numbers. Bigger the audience, sooner the message reaches the masses. They were told that by their Madam Ji.

At precisely 9:20 am the Dream Run of the marathon began.
Most people ran in this segment. Thousands of them. It was short and fun. The trend of having a Marathon was catching up in a lot of cities. Politicians, advertisers, film stars, non governmental organisations and all those who could benefit from this database of people, encouraged it.

Five of the young yellow tee gang had never seen a marathon earlier. They stood there stupefied.
"Go, Go", screamed the leader.
No one moved.

They had never seen such a sea of humans earlier which surged ahead now.
They had been working with Madam Ji for just a few days now.
They were the field workers.

"Go and place these mats in a line on the road before they pass this area," ordered the leader.

The confused youngsters ran and laid down the foot-mats on the road and rushed back to the pavement. Their job was done. The marathon runners would run over these mats. The leader took his position in the middle of the road. He was ready with his pocket camera. Just as he was about to click the first few who were sprinting past, he realised it was such a futile exercise. People didn't step on them. They avoided stepping on the shining synthetic mats. They went around it. There were hordes of people. None stepped on them. The whole idea was a flop. He came back to the pavement and stood along with the other five.

The five new recruits were looking at the carnival that passed by. Men in pink wigs, somebody dressed as God, a group of bare-bodied men, girls who looked like stuffed water droplets, someone had a hat with a tree sprouting out, someone was dressed as a tiger, some girls in a mermaid costume, some wearing huge skeleton masks.

They stared at this parade in awe. The fact that it meant anything more serious than the fancy dress it looked like was beyond them. A group of men wearing chef hats passed by with trays of food in their hand. They represented a big hotel. This reminded the field workers how hungry they were.

They were up since four in the morning to get everything prepared and load the van with these mats.

"Bhaiyya can we go and eat something now? We have done our work." asked one of them.

The leader looked at them in disgust and told them that the work was far from done.
They must wait for the crowd to pass.
Wait for it to thin out so that they can go and pick up the mats, run across the divider on the road to the other side and place them in a line before the runners returned. He had to get a picture of them stamping the mats. That was the whole idea. He had to get that somehow. Unless he got a perfect photograph, he knew Madam Ji was not going to pay them their daily wages.

They would have to request everyone to step on the mats now. If need be, herd them to it.

"No you cannot eat now," was his reply.

They stood there waiting for the crowd to return. There was still time for the fancy ones to come back. Few tired ones trickled in. They were useless. They were at the end of their half marathon of 21 kilometers and almost half dead for all practical purposes. They couldn't care less about any cause.

"What are you doing standing like that? Are you getting paid to stand or work? ", Madam Ji shouted from behind. All of them were startled. She wasn't supposed to be here. She was supposed to be at the NGO head office. They jumped when they heard her shrill voice and ran to the other side of the road with their mats on an instinct. Even as they steeplechased their way across the road divider, they could hear her. She was yelling at them from the other side. "Lazy fellows! Free loaders! Idiots! Good for nothing! One simple thing I tell them and they can't do it!"

As they ran, they tripped and fell. Some on the road, some on the runners who were finishing the half marathon and some flat on the mats they were carrying.

The bystanders and paramedics rushed to help them.
Everyone forgot about the mats and mercilessly stepped on them in the madness that ensued.

The leader quickly got up and went berserk clicking. He had to earn his wages.
He was happy he got wonderful shots.
Madam Ji was happy that her presentation for foreign funding would have some nice pictures. Maybe she could even send it for some international award in the ambient advertising section. It was her best creative.

Two runners were taken away by the medical team.
Five bruised field workers got back on their feet and started collecting the strewn mats.

One read,"Trample away hunger".
Another mat read,"Trample away illiteracy".
Yet another read,"Trample away child labour".


  1. hmmm

    All your stories have complete different each one them...that's a very good thing. No repetition. And simplicity of writing! :) Keep it up my friend! :)

  2. Thx Anagha :) koshish jaari hai :)

  3. gr8 narration on common flaws around us .. as always ... thumps up..