So came the morning when we hear old trucks rattling into the colony and drop off tables and chairs with food stains from the previous marriage functions. Residents were told to move their cars 100 metres away from the primary school that has always been the polling station in this area. Of course I had half the mind to ask how my car interferes with the march of democracy but the sight of some serious looking CRPF made me turn away.
At ten, people turned up and stood in line as if they were going to change the destiny of the country and (hopefully their future) with this one act. But here is the strange thing.
All this talk of the largest democracy and the importance of YOUR VOTE is OK as far as the media campaign goes. Since this breakdance of democracy involves millions, it takes time to organize. By the time my chance came to vote, 80 percent of the country had voted and gone to sleep out of sheer boredom of TV debates. Most of them are like – please tell us who won so that we can get on with our lives.
The other thing is when you go to the polling booth, you realize how makeshift the whole system is even today. The tables are rented out from the local tentwalah, the chairs are rickety and there is a two feet high cardboard surrounding the voting machine. I took one look at the set up while standing in line. This piece of cardboard is going to protect my vote? Then again I thought of Florida. At least we do a better job than them.
In the line we were looking at the party symbols of lesser-known candidates (also available for the blind to read in Braille!). Someone had an ice-cream symbol, another a lamp post. The Pyramid Party of India had a hat much like what you see in Bhagat Singh portraits. If only the voting awareness campaigns had highlighted this aspect. Half the people would turn up just to look at and vote for the funniest symbols.
A boy and his mother were arguing. He wanted to ask for the 49 – O form in protest and not vote for any candidate. The mother was urging her son not to embarrass her in front of her neighbours. Of course this scam has been doing the rounds of the internet where we were told that one could protest against all candidates by using 49-O option. While this is not true and 49 – O does not disqualify candidates or force a re-poll, we have enthusiasts who want to mark their protest.
Just to add to the drama, an old man walked in to see the polling officer and asked for the same form. He too did not want to cast his vote. The polling officer was flustered and tried to dissuade him. But the old man would have none of it. He was willing to wait the whole day he said. That was his idea of democracy. Or fun. Or both. In the meantime, my name was checked twice, my fingernail marked and a button was pressed. As I left the old man was still arguing.
Did my action change anything? I don’t think so. But if we can count better than the Americans and announce the winner correctly it was time (ours) and money (ours again !) well spent.