What Anna does when he’s not on stage

New Delhi: Well before he comes before the people every morning at the Ramlila Ground, Anna Hazare locks himself in a 10×10 feet makeshift room backstage and writes in meditative silence for over two hours. It is an activity he’s particular about.

Though the activist abstains from his routine yoga during fasts, writing is one thing he never compromises on, Suresh Pathare, a Hazare confidant who is from his Ralegan-Siddhi village in Maharashtra, said.

His schedule during his hunger strike, which entered the seventh day Monday, goes something like this.

The 74-year-old wakes up at 6.30 a.m. in a room hidden behind the grand stage. He takes about an hour to get ready. Shaving is a must, “a habit from his military days”, says Pathare, who has been with Hazare for about 10 years.

An hour later, he gets down to writing.

What does he write? “About little things, humanity, rights… He puts on paper a lot of internal thoughts,” says Pathare, 31.

“Even in Tihar (Jail), he used to write a lot. In jail he used to read newspapers and watch news on TV, but here he just writes.”

Pathare added: “In the village, he sometimes doesn’t come out of his house for days. No one has the guts to knock on his door.

“If someone has to bring him food, he’ll keep it outside and leave. No one can dare to disturb him.”

Pathare first met Hazare during a rural development project in the village. He has since become his loyal aide.

It is only at around 10 a.m. that Hazare appears before the waiting crowd, which bursts into a prolonged applause on seeing the former soldier who ferried supplies to the frontlines in the Indian Army.

He stays on the stage till 9 p.m., sometimes sitting in an upright posture and sometimes taking help of the bolster to give his body some stretch.

The gathering keeps a steady chant of slogans hailing him. He faintly smiles. It is only occasionally that he picks up a mike and addresses the crowds.

A portable toilet is placed next to his makeshift room. Doctors check him every three hours.

At around 10 p.m., the activist calls it a day and retires to his room.

“Anna likes to sleep at the venue when he’s fasting,” said Pathare, who has been with Hazare during all his last 10 fasts in the past decade.

However, during the five-day fast at Jantar Mantar here in the city centre, Hazare used fellow activist Swami Agnivesh’s home nearby to get fresh.

Besides the multiple medical check-ups daily, a 24-hour ambulance is parked outside Hazare’s night shelter.

Balram Gupta, a doctor from Medanta Medicity, said: “His blood pressure, heart rate, everything is fine. He’s a very tolerant man.”

Volunteers are parked behind the stage.

Around 300-400 activists are deployed at the ground, which is bigger than a football field, apart from police force.

Hazare’s meetings are restricted to close aides and special guests.

Pathare said that Hazare was very particular about time.

“If he has two back-to-back engagements and the first function stretches on a little and he gets late for the second meeting, he gets very angry,” he said.

Aswathi Muralitharan, who has been with India Against Corruption (IAC) for two years, reveals another Hazare characteristic.

“He will never sign a document without going through it. He’d check it 100 times and make at least 50 changes. No one can impose anything on him.”

Adds Pathare: “He writes, rewrites, improvising again and again, till he’s satisfied. He’s a perfectionist.” By Mohita Nagpal