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I am totally disenchanfranchised May 17, 2009

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.

shravan kumarOn election day,  for the sake of democracy and the future of this country, I take my elderly parents to the polling booth.  Kind of like that man who lugged his aged parents around in cane baskets,  except, to stay with the times, I ditch the cane baskets and use my car instead. We have done this many times – vote as a family, I mean – but this time it is slightly different.  My parents are a lot older and they are going to be voting for an independent candidate for the first time.  So, along the way, we rehearse the process again. 

“Amma, remember the slate symbol. Don’t forget his name, E. Sarath Babu, Ok?”, I say. She is annoyed at being treated like a fogey old lady. “Ok. Ok. I know. Studied in BITS Pilani, went to IIM [A] afterwards, now he is foodking. Avanthaney? I know who I am voting for!”, she says. My dad nitpicks, “He is not foodking, his company is”. “Same thing!”, she retorts. I sigh, thinking it would be so much easier to just go by myself, finish the voting quickly and get to office. But having taken up the cause of a man fighting against losing his deposit, I know every vote would count.

We reach the polling station. It’s not so crowded after all. We go in search of our counter and find it at the far end of the school. My father is holding the umbrella for protection from the scorching sun, ostensibly for both himself and amma, though he is walking ten steps ahead of her. There is a sudden urgency to cast his vote, it seems.

We reach the counter and join a smallish line. A really old man is at the top of the queue. Everything is repeated multiple times for his benefit. A photographer is clicking away, hoping to exaggerate the age of this voter and hit the front page of some daily. The old man labours with his walking stick and finally reaches the voting machine. He goes behind the torn up cardboard carton, the makeshift screen for the secret ballot, and fumbles for an eternity. “Pothun thathaa, move along”, says the impatient polling officer. The old man leaves and I don’t hear the beep that signals the successful recording of his vote. The group of party representatives who are supposed to monitor the process and ensure each other’s behavior all go nudge-nudge, wink-wink,  hoping to cast his vote for their candidate later in the day.

We reach the entrance of the booth. On the walls around the door are the posters of all the candidates with their respective numbers. There are totally 48 candidates. Amma has forgotten her glasses. She squints and points at some other symbol and says “Is that the slate?”. Its hot and I am already tired and impatient. “No, maa, that’s something else. See here, see the name written in big letters. This is the slate. Number 24. Marakkadey”, I whisper, hoping nobody can hear this conversation. She is nodding her head doubtfully when my father, a little hard of hearing and consequently a little loud, whispers so all can hear “Tell her it is number 24, otherwise she will vote for some other idiot”. I am cringing now, wanting this hell to get over soon.

My dad hits the head of the queue, presents his voter id, locates his name on the list, reaches the voting machine with a spring in his step and the deed is done. My mother is next. Same process, albeit a little more slowly. My brother follows suit and now it’s my turn.

I present my voter id and the officer looks at her list and says, “Sorry, but your name is not here in the list”. I have a voter id, I have voted before, even at this same polling booth, I am right here in person – but sorry, no, I can’t vote. I am dejected and I whine “I want to vote!”. “You should have checked earlier, when we made the rounds with the latest voters’ list”, she admonishes me as though I am an errant school kid. Appa says, “Come along, don’t stand there and fight. Everyone is watching”, and drags me away.

Now I hear that E. Sarath Babu may have lost his deposit. Hopefully by more than one vote, otherwise I’ll be burdened with this guilt till next elections.

So the story continues… educated people can’t win. The corrupt parties with their illiterate candidates and money to burn continue to rule the roost.  While people like me and Kamal Haasan have to continue to watch impotently from the sidelines.

I am disenfranchised and completely disenchanted. Can you blame me for feeling disenchanfranchised?



1. padmajav - May 18, 2009

ah… i faced the same thing this time… i’d shifted residence and they’d conveniently removed my name, despite me voting there last time… and producing my voters’ id… you and kamal hassan are not alone!
anyway, i read this article in indian express a few sundays ago on what actually happens behind the scenes in an election and lost all my faith in democracy…

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