Election stress hit our household too, despite us being south Bombay types who are supposed to be unconcerned with them. (My favourite from a list floating online titled 10 Reasons Why South Bombayites don’t vote is: “What? No valet parking?”). Actually, it isn’t true that they are unconcerned. My informal market research shows that this constituency is very concerned indeed, perhaps not about what impact it will have on the governance of the country, rather what impact it will have on the Sensex.
My daughter came to Mumbai from the city where she lives, so that she could vote for the first time, having been away in college during earlier elections. Along with her came a whole lot of lectures on liberalism and why mom should read the entire article in that magazine before bursting into outraged, indignant ranting. “And have you read the next para” was her signature tune, every time I reacted to something I was reading. I thought to myself spitefully, that had she read the whole page or even the next paragraph of my numerous letters to her in the past, she may have turned out better. The usually reticent spouse added to my stress by turning loquacious. He, who has always held his peace, even when his dog was straining at the leash to attack the neighbourhood kids, now was busy telling everyone who asked and didn’t, about the fatal flaws of each party and interspersing it with rude remarks about “all you Hindutva types” or “all you Shiv Sainiks”, or “all you poor, deluded AAP gullibles” etc. We may irrevocably have lost a few friends.
He advocated, somewhat illogically, the case for the known devil, over the unknown entities, and tempers rose over whether an incompetent team leader was better than a supposedly competent lone ranger. We eventually woke up on election day, and in a rare, we-forgot-how-to-do-this act of family togetherness, we went to vote. All the way, my husband was telling us how to vote, though to his credit, not who to vote for. He explained the sequence of steps, how to operate the electronic voting machine, carried the BMC notices of where we could find our names in the voters’ list, but refused to hand it over to us individually, thus remaining in control over his little community. Unfortunately, even as we entered the polling booth, we knew we would cancel each others’ votes out, and vote in three utterly different directions. Of course, no one asked and no one disclosed who the other voted for, and we all just looked at each other suspiciously for the rest of the day. And, sadly, it was my finger that had an unsightly messy spread of the ink mark, in contrast to the neat sharp ones they both had — an indicator of my cluttered thoughts and un-strategic voting, I would have been told, had I been stupid enough to ask.
My driver told me that he was really sad that elections in his village and in Mumbai were on the same day. In the last elections he had voted twice, once in each location. What about the mark on your finger, I asked him. Oh that, he replied airily. It can be removed with oil. I tried to clean up my finger and make the vote mark look a bit more stylish, but apparently, you have to coat your finger before getting the ink mark on it. My housekeeper said she needed to travel to her village and vote. Go ahead, we told her, and she said that parties were sending transport to the city to take them home to vote. She said that they had all learned from the last occasion, when the parties, having got their votes cast, had not not bothered to drop them back. Besides, she said, this time we also asked for better vehicles. And no more reliance on promises, she said. “We said show us what you can do before the voting day”, she told us. So the temple and the road to the village got repaired. My husband has been very perturbed since then, about how we urban voters have no clue on how to participate in an election.
Perhaps, the last word on the matter will go to the Mumbai taxi driver who informed me that every single candidate supported by a prominent political leader would win. How is that possible, I protested, his party doesn’t have so much clout. Well, he said, they don’t have to all belong to his party. Some of his candidates might be in the BJP, some in the Shiv Sena, and some in the Congress. Very democratic, eh?
Rama Bijapurkar is a management consultant and a householder