This election year somehow it has become a personal milestone for me to vote. Several weeks before the election date, R finds our names registered to vote in the area of residence of the old place we used to live in five years ago. I can almost not believe that some online pdf document having our names would actually mean that in reality our names *are* registered.
Driving to work each day in the weeks leading to the election, I see a couple of women holding up banners calling for citizens to exercise their right to vote. A very committed NGO this, spending so much time and energy urging people to exercise *their own* rights! Much needed in the current state of affairs in this large democracy of ours. Hats off to the commitment and positive attitude of the women holding the banners. As I drive slowly past them in the morning hour traffic, I wave to them and give them a thumbs up signal on a couple of occasions, which they acknowledge with a gracious bow and smile. Being most skeptical about our names actually being in the voters’ list, I wonder whether I will personally be able to make their work worthwhile by actually voting…
Election day. We are ready bright and early. A friend had come over from Mumbai to vote – his constituency is across town from where we live, so he leaves early on my bike. I am heartened to see his dedication to voting, actually taking time off from his busy life to come down to Pune to vote. We too drive to the polling booth in our old area of residence. As we park and walk along the side walk, I wonder if it was finally going to be a reality – at 37, am I going to fulfill my right as a citizen of India, or am I going to go back disappointed and bitterly complaining of the terrible system that does not recognize semi-nomadic people like me?
Magically (or so it seems to me) our names are on the voters’ list in the booth identified in the online pdf document, at the specified serial numbers! It is almost anti-climactically smooth, the whole process taking less than 15 minutes from walking into the building to stepping out, triumphant with the mark of indelible ink on the middle finger of my left hand. I quickly call to tell my parents that I VOTED!! They are so proud of me 🙂
The next day’s paper shows that Pune’s voter turn out has been the poorest in recent years at 40% or so. When we show such apathy, we have no right to complain about the system that we are silently endorsing – apathetic and pathetic in equal measures. Where are all the paper-tigers who rise up against our politicians and police force when there is a terrorist attack against India? Ought not the righteous talk translate to exercising one’s right to vote? Okay, apart from the semi-nomads that fell through the gaps and never found their names in the voters’ list. That still doesn’t account for the 60% no-shows… the personal high is replaced with a sorrow at the macro level. If the terror attacks and bombs don’t awaken us, what will? Jaago re!