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Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The First Election Experience
I cast my maiden vote today. I won't exaggerate and say that it was a liberating experience or that it marked the initiation of my political relevance but somewhere inside it felt good to be exercising the franchise that makes us a part of a democracy. It felt that finally, after all these years I was an adult - now that I had a say in who represented us in the capital.
In most parts of Calcutta, especially the Southern stretch of it that I hail from, "election day" is more of a community exercise. It felt like walking into the para pandal on Oshtomi morning to offer pushpanjoli - seeing all the kaku-kakimas, dada-boudis and distant protibeshis standing in the queue outside the local primary school. Smiling, waving to one another, filling each other in with the latest gossip - it hardly looked the "pitched battlefield" of two sworn rivals of the political arena. It showed that the smart-showers and Kalboishakhi over the past couple of days had felicitated this get-together to a large extent. People looked generally relaxed and unhurried. Though largely a Communist stronghold there was little coercing or pleading on show, just a little raise of a hand here and there followed by a nod of assurance. Persuasion was being played out in all its politeness just outside the booth. And one would take this any day over booth ransacking or manhandling of voters which is so rampant in many parts. Though I was asked a few times about the choice of my candidate by paratoto kakus I have known since birth I evaded giving a direct answer lest I be made to explain my choice in detail, all standing in a queue of considerable stretch, in front of the prying eyes of zealous party-workers and earnest looking army men. Worse, they might make me read their respective party manifestos before I am allowed to vote, I thought. But for all the questioning that I was subjected to I got even by drilling into the head of this kaku's son the mechanics of our great parliamentary system on my way back. By the look of it, he will be pestering his father to satiate his curiosity on the procedure of appointment of the Lok Sabha speaker for the next few days.
I am no political activist. I sport no political affiliations. I exercised my right and to the best of my knowledge voted for "the lesser evil" on the EVM panel. I also weighed the political eventuality in case the candidate I voted for wins and his/her party does well elsewhere and how it would lend stability to a Govt. which can run its course in New Delhi. I just hope I have made the right choice. I hope others have made the same. I hope the coming five years do not stifle out the excitement I felt today in belonging to a system, a great one at that. I hope I get to vote again.