The dust settled from the whirling of the helicopter blades. A hundred dark gaunt faces, ghost like, cautiously approached the fat machine. Women barely able to carry babies, their stomachs bloated and flies triumphantly gorging whatever little they could find around their oozing eyes and dry lips. No energy even to brush them away.
A hush as the fat machine delivered some people withe brightest eyes. Despite the heat and sweat, their faces full and almost gleaming, their bodies bursting with strength. The crowd stared. It had been two years since they has seen people as well fed as these. That was when the people in blue helmets had passed by and promised to return. They never did.
Aklilu looked at the new modern camera equipment that was brought out of the Machine. He had been the official news gatherer to the ministry of information. But that was six years before the famine came. Before his wife had died, neither able to feed herself nor the child in her womb.
The good looking face with the wide smile and white teeth asked ” Does anyone speak English here ?”.
“I do, Sir.” Replied Akhilu.
” We have come to get your reaction to Live 8 ” said White teeth.
“Live 8, Sir ?” Said Akhilu as he calmed the murmurs in the crowd that was getting denser.
The Blonde girl was anxiously pointing towards someone in the crowd. Akhilu thought she looked like a Goddess descended on Earth. She felt like the saviour.
“Food” assured Akhilu in the local dialect.
Zeinaba felt a stab of anxiousness. The Blonde girl was pointing directly at her. Beckoning her to come. Holding her one year old tight, she mustered all the strength she had, to walk the few paces to
the Blonde Girl. Fear gripped her as all their machines pointed directly at her. In her sixteen years on the planet, she had never seen a camera before.
The Blonde Girl smiled ” Tell her that there have been huge concerts all over the world. Million of people came and vowed to end Poverty in Africa.
Akhilu whispered to Zeinaba.
“She would like to know what a concert is” Said Akhilu.
” Well, all the most famous singers in the world went to all the major cities, and sang to the people. The people held hands and danced and all of them swore to end poverty in Africa. How does she feel about that ? Even Nelson Mandela attended”.
“And Bill Gates – the richest man in the world” Added White teeth.
Akhilu translated, but Zainaba just stared.
“4 Billion people watched the event” Urged the Blonde girl.
Akhilu, not wanting to offend the Blonde Goddess, urged Zainaba to say something.
” She wants to know what billion means” Translated Akhilu.
Knowing she had now driven home her point, the Blonde girl spread her arms wide, smiled stunningly and said ” It’s like the whole world. The whole world has made a commitment to eradicate poverty in Africa”.
Zainaba’s sunken eyes suddenly glimmered with hope. She finally understood what the Blonde girl was saying. Zainaba urgently whispered back to Akhilu.
“She wants to know if you have brought food” Asked Akhilu.
“Food .. us ? No, you see, this was a day job, so we have no food.. well .. Hey ! does anyone have any candy or stuff in there ?” The Blonde girl shouted into the machine.
“And water ?” Asked Akhilu, pushed along by Zainaba.
” Water ? Sure. Hey Guys, can we spare a bottle here ?”
“But there are four hundred of us” said Akhilu. This time not provoked by Zainaba. For Zainaba had left his side and was walking up to the Blonde Goddess.
Zainaba stared directly in to Blonde girl’s eyes. She suddenly felt life flooding back into her. With all the effort she could muster….
Zainaba spat in the Blonde girl’s face.
As Zainaba turned a walked away, she knew this was mistake. All the saliva she could muster was needed to wet the parched lips of her dying child.
But in three days she would be dead anyway. While the world sang and danced.
© Shekhar Kapur