Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Touch and go - Clinton

AH! Finally.
You have a fair idea what this is going to be about. And it's only right that I write about meeting with former US President Bill Clinton on May 27, 2005. And a warning: I'm afraid it's going to get peurile in parts, especially where I talk about how he shook my hand. But then, I get ahead of my story!

* * *

Being in the UN convoy had definite advantages. For one, none of the rules applying to the rest of the media and junta in general, applied to us. Two, it would get us access where none of the 300 odd mediapersons gathered there could not go. That, I guess, was the biggest advantage.
Which is why I woke up at 4 a.m. something I almost never do.

Briefed, de-briefed, hungry, sweated and deodorised, we waited for the big man to come, happy about the special access we were granted, yet a trifle upset that so many media people were waiting outside in the sun, hoping to do their jobs. But in the line of duty, we cannot help all that we would like to.

We were told to choose between four spots, say A, B,C and D. A bunch of journalists would stand at each spot and sorry, you cannot move between spots. We're not used to have restrictions placed on our movement, we journalists, but that situation was a no-do. Clearly, it follow or fall out. Plus the UN guys seemed to think the 15 of us were some kind of a syndicate - that we would share information among ourselves. HA! HA!

I settled for Point D where I found myself with one other journalist, from the London Times. Both of us wondered whey no one else had chosen this spot. It was like a dead end behind us and rows of temporary shelters stood at our left. Clinton was going inside these huts.

When the man did come, quarter an hour behind schedule, orange t-shirt and Khakis, he was so tired. Yeah, he's been through a by-pass and has been asked to loose weight, but we were surpised to see him so haggard, so worn, so tired. But like Catherine, the London Times reporter said, "He IS old, you know." I very reluctantly accept the fact.

But it did not make any difference if he was old or young, or tired or nervous when he turned the corner towards Point D. Catherine and me wave to him, like very spontaneously. And we expect him to walk straight into the shelters. Meanwhile, my camera, decides to give up on me at the crucial moment. * She won't work* I was saying, quite loudly, "I don't believe this," shaking my head at the camera, when I saw Bill Clinton's orange shirt at my nose.

Well, it was nearly there. And hey, presto, he puts his hand out to shake mine. I'm cool as a cucumber, I put my hand out and say, "Hey, hi! How do You do?" In some corner of my mind I can see District Collector J.Radhakrishnan tell the big man, "This is Ramya Kannan." But I'm just keyed into his drawl "How do you do?"

I surely must stop here, not because I must leave now, but heard of stopping for effect? Only two closing points though: I did ask a question later at the press conference, that he answered at length and gave me sufficient material for a small story. Two: All those who saw my story and left a word, thank you so much! What would I do without all of you.




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