Monday, May 16, 2016

It can't possibly be that simple! (Could it?)

This morning, I stood in the shortest queue ever to vote. It was all smooth sailing. The cop at the entrance told us which queue to join--no second guessing, waiting and finding out it's the wrong one! The queue was blessedly short; so short it was single file! People were relatively quiet.

Prior to the election, I was wondering about the candidates. No one had bothered to canvass in our neighbhourhood except the BJP and then too, it was not the candidate but one of those autos with a megaphone attached. The ruling party had changed candidates on us--not that we got to meet or learn about either.

We stood for a brief moment and looked over the giant EC poster with candidate photos. It was an easy decision as we looked at those interchangeable faces.

I thought the queue would be discussing candidates, mainly because they were on my mind.

But the conversation in the queue was far more pedestrian and predictable for a middle-class Indian neighbourhood. People had come clutching all kinds of paper--the Voter ID, booth slips, receipts from the EC, ration cards, even Aadhaar.

There was great consternation because the parties had not distributed booth slips. Why? All that information is on your voter ID! But I did not say, because I have never learnt to sound authoritative about paperwork.

The Election Commission has banned these slips, one woman voter pronounced. The others said, it's going very slowly because the slips are not there. I wanted to say, they have to check against all their registers so that no one votes in your name. It does not matter how many pieces of paper you bring. But I said nothing.

Then the couple behind murmured about first time voters. I was curious. The queue was full of people 40+ and senior citizens. She said (also the one with the EC ban information in the previous para) they have the most awareness and want to vote. He said, "The EC is trying for 100%." I couldn't resist, so I asked, "Will they manage it? 100%? What are the chances?" He said, "75-80." Then with the tone of an expert (because all men are experts), "75-80% is also good." She added in support, "100% is not possible. They don't allow postal and Internet voting." Then they got into a discussion about government officials and who had the postal vote. I lost interest, as I usually do when men acquire that expert-voice.

Senior citizens in their 60s and 70s kept cutting the queue and entering the booth to vote. At one point, the entire family in front of us entered with them. There were ten people in there at one go and polling officers could not function. They turned to my mother, 80+ and standing obediently outside the room, and said, "You cannot crowd the room." I said, "She is standing outside. We will not enter till you call us." Although another queue-cutter was pressing into my back as if it were a stampede. (What is it with us???)

The conversation between her and the couple behind me resumed.

Voting is our duty. It is alright to wait 15 minutes for your turn. Your sambar will not curdle and you can miss 10 minutes of the Vijay film for this.

These people are my age. Do they not remember what it was like in the pre-Seshan elections? The rough and tumble of the campaign. The noise. The violence. The booth-capturing. The dumping of votes. The hit and miss of being able to vote or not. Having voted in a January election but disappearing off the voter registry in May. Whole buildings appearing and disappearing. Dead people showing up in registers but those who voted last year not being found. Don't these people remember what elections and voting were like?

I was so proud to be voting with someone who had canvassed door-to-door for the Congress in the first election and worked as a polling agent. She was posted by the Press Information Bureau to the Election Commission for counting during the next election and has voted in every single election since Independence. She stood there quietly, in spite of having been unstable on her feet this morning. She had water with lime juice in her bag, Vertin, a fan and a towel, and no complaints.

And there was this twitchy lady who must be barely 60, cutting the queue and pushing me to get into the polling booth.

 From the voting mark on my finger,
you might conclude I had not voted but made a splash! 
The policeman said nothing to her, but addressed my mother, "Don't go in now." I was so annoyed. "She has worked in the first election. We know the rules and won't break them." He was a little startled.

In the queue, the second-guessing about what ID was acceptable, what procedure to follow, continued.

We stepped in, and had voted in under two minutes.

It really was that simple. Thank heaven, the people in the queue were not allowed to make rules--they would have set up an obstacle course where there was none! 

1 comment:

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