A few people trickled into the booths set up by the road just outside the school. By the time we finished our round of morning walk and approached the centre, the trickle turned into a steady stream. Citizens queued up to get their names verified and collect the voting slips before walking into the school to cast their ballot. The officials behind the tables, in the makeshift sheds were warming up to the task that lay ahead, the morning December chill making their fingers shiver as they leafed through sheets of voters list. An anxious voter insisted that his mother's name be struck out since she was travelling, ensuring that her vote was not misused. The old were helped in, the young walked in with a sprite. Everyone walked towards their allotted rooms taking their place in the queue. Pleasantries were exchanged. They went out of their way to help those who looked confused and lost.
Voting had begun in a quiet suburb as in the rest of Delhi for assembly elections.
Another place. Another time.
So, will you go tomorrow to vote?
What if someone sees you? You know who I mean.
It doesn't matter now. There will be many more tomorrow, just see. People have had enough of this 'struggle'. Many lives have been lost and many sacrificed for the cause. And what have we gained? The 'leaders' are snug in their safe havens with millions tucked away for their secured future.
The next morning was silent. No horns honking and no sound of vehicles plying. People stayed at home going about their daily chores as in a holiday. They looked out to see if anyone was venturing towards the polling centre. Streets were empty and the dogs were frolicking around. The ULFA had called for an Assam Bandh asking the people to boycott the election.
An old man walked slowly. People looked at him as he walked past their houses wondering if he was out for a stroll. The old man reached the gate of the school. The officials manning the centre looked up from their doodles and idle talk. He walked towards them and asked them to check if his name was there on the list. One of them pushed his forefinger down the list looking for the name. He ticked his name and guided him towards the ballot box. The old man looked weary but determined.
" That was very brave of you, Sir."
He looked at the officer with sad eyes and lips thinning into a wry smile.
"My son was very brave. He died fighting for the cause. He was an innocent fool. He trusted everyone..." shaking his head the old man walked away.
People streamed in slowly as the day progressed. One by one they made their way into the school. Women, men young and old, students who were first time voters.
And so the process continued. The officers continued shuffling papers, checking lists and guiding the people. The next they spoke to their colleagues was after 5pm.
But you are late ,sir.
But it is only 4pm!
I mean you are late, as in deceased.
What nonsense! I am very much alive standing here before you! How can I be dead?
Here is my identity proof.My wife and my daughter have voted. In their details my name doesn't show as 'late'.
I am sorry sir. You will have to get this revised for the next time. Next please!
Delhi was buzzing the last few days. And so were some other states as they went in for poll. Every action of the candidates was followed up in great detail, scrutinized and discussed at great length. People have had enough of the scams, the scandals, political high handedness and lack of accountability. They ask for good governance now. The media worked itself up into a frenzy, scrambling to be the first in the race to predict the outcome. People were shown thronging the polling centres willing for a change.
A footage on the television shows long shots of queues and close ups of the people. Some smiling and some look affronted.
"My name is not there on the voters list. I've been living here for the last 20 years."
"My sister's name is shown as deceased. Here she is before you very much alive and kicking!"
Call it dance of democracy or people's call for a change. It is time to realise that at the end of it all, it is the grades in the report cards that will call the shots. An aberration here and there is fine. But people are not willing to be short changed, duped and assailed...
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