It took a while before I could feel the others’ presence. I could not see them, but they were whispering. I could not gather what they were talking about. Some voices were familiar. It gave me some solace. “I’m not alone. I’ve got some company,” I thought, though I didn’t who they were. It took a while before I could feel the others’ presence. I could not see them, but they were whispering. I could not gather what they were talking about. After covering the VVIP’s visit to the drought-hit areas for two days I’m completely drained of energy. True, getting Page One slots for the reports on the famine and the VVIP’s promises was gratifying. But I wanted to take a compensatory off the following day. I deserved it, I thought. But my boss said I had to file an analysis of the high-profile visit that assured abundant water to parched areas, which were becoming virtual graveyards.There was no escape. He would have the last laugh. I had to oblige. It might be tough selling ice to an Eskimo. But the VVIP was a seasoned politician. He knew well what would appeal to the villagers, hit hard by the famine. We, the reporters, knew what he was up to. But our hands were tied. We knew what to write and what not to. We were supposed to sell his dreams, and save the nightmares for ourselves.After filing stories on wonderful dreams of water and imminent riches, I reached home at the midnight. My wife told me the child had waited for me all the evening before going to bed. “You should have come home early. He was expecting you to get him the Red Ranger wristband you promised him,” she said.I didn’t utter a word. I showered, ate my dinner and laid beside him and drew him close to me. I said I was sorry and kissed him on his cheeks. I knew quite well he would very happy, when he saw me sleeping next to him in the morning.I too fell asleep a while later. Soon I slipped into a dream, or rather a nightmare. One that still haunts as I narrate it. It was about darkness. Stark darkness. I could not recollect whether I fell into that seemingly endless, infinite pit accidentally or if someone threw me into it.Was it a trap? Or did I commit suicide, falling slowly into perpetual sleep? I could not recollect whether I was standing still or was falling down the deepest of chasms. Or was I floating in a sea of darkness? The vastness and invincibility of the darkness sent a chill down my spine. Or was it where I have been living all these years?Profusely sweating, I thought I would never come out and see light again. It seemed to me I was condemned to live there forever, a thought that frightened me. Then it occurred to me if I was suffering this torment all alone. But what about the others? My wife, son, parents, friends — where were they?It took a while before I could feel the others’ presence. I could not see them, but they were whispering. I could not gather what they were talking about. Some voices were familiar. It gave me some solace. “I’m not alone. I’ve got some company,” I thought, though I didn’t who they were.But I wondered whether they were aware of my presence at all. I tried to say something. A muffled voice prevented me, saying “Sshh! Don’t talk.” I recognised the voice. It was my wife!Perhaps it was animal instinct — a warning about lurking danger. I didn’t utter a word. But it didn’t help me. It only added to my confusion and fears. Was something serious happening? I didn’t know what to do. Should I shout for help? Should I talk to my wife and neighbours? It seemed they were aware of the problem.Someone was saying, “I’ll talk to the Minister tomorrow. Take it from me, I’ll make them weep for what they have done to us. I won’t leave them alone.” Yes, it was my neighbour. He was dropping names.But I had no clue what was happening. I didn’t know what how long I would continue to suffer. It suddenly occurred to me that I had been living there for ages.That idea did no good. I sank further.After some time, still in the darkness, I could identify the faces of people I knew. But there were some figures darker than the darkness. Soon I noticed that the others were listening to the grotesque figures. I, too, started listening.The gigantic figures, moved in menacingly, yelled, “There will be light. There will be light. Don’t listen to those who talk of darkness. There will be water. There will be water. Don’t believe those who talk of parched land. There will be food and gold all over.”I saw tears rolling down the cheeks of some people. But I could not make out whether they were tears of sadness or joy. The voices around me were whispering. Hurling abuse. But I could not understand whether they were abusing themselves or cursing others. Instinctively I drew my scribbling pad from my back pocket and started jotting down the promises, as the pitter-patter of rain turned into a shower, drenching us. We were all wet. But I managed to note down the points with a ballpoint pen. I had got enough forthe story, it would probably go on Page 1, with the headline “Leaders assure light, water, food and gold”.There were howls coming from all around me. The protests too there must have been there. But they were simply washed over in that uproar. It seemed there was no end to that commotion. My son’s voice dragged me out of the dream. “Get up. Get up father,” he shook me, because he wanted to be out there in the thick of the action.“The municipal tanker has arrived. There was no power last night. The kid was crying all the night and you didn’t give a damn.You were sleeping like a log,” my wife screamed at me.Without saying a word, I ran out holding a plastic can. It was a free-for-all. People were shouting at each other, calling names. I had to join them.