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MY 90-MINUTE Tryst WITH DEMOCRACY

I decided to land at the polling booth early, cast my vote and continue to tell the world “voting is your right, not your duty.” That way, I was better than those who live abroad and wax eloquent on why we should vote, but they don’t follow their preaching.

The previous night I downloaded an App, logged in my name and my dad’s name, both of which spelled horribly wrong, to check my polling station. At 6.35 am I set out to vote. The place was 12 km away from home; but you see for ICAI elections I travel about 60km. That time I had great trouble locating the booth. This time it would be easy. Or so I thought.

NO- FLY-NO-CROW

Twenty-five minutes later, I reached the polling station. There was no sign of any poll. I asked a lady cop, but she had no clue. I walked to where my booth should have been, some zonal office of a corporation, but lo there was, to use a colloquial phrase, no-fly-no-crow. When I asked the odd guy there, he pointed to a school 300 metres away. “That’s the nearest booth.”

So yours sincerely, like a true citizen, went to the school. A guy looking like a corporator asked me to name the street I resided. I named the apartment. “No, I want the street name.” I gave him the road name. “road name is fine. What about the street number?” I gave him the number and he said, “I don’t know that place! This school is for Kodambakkam. Yours should be somewhere else.” Which somewhere, God only knows!

So, off I treaded back to my car, engaged the start button and drove down to yet another school. The place was crowded. I showed the address on the App and asked the cop whether this was the place. He asked me to see the SI. I went to the SI, salaamed the guy like a good Indian. The conversation went thus after I showed the App.

“Hey, the venue on the App is changed. Your school is two streets away.” “Sir, what is the name of the school?”

“Look I don’t know. That’s not my jurisdiction. Because I happen to be from this place, I know the venue is changed.”

I thanked him for nothing and went to where the school should have been. There was nothing there. A corporation guy guided me to a third school, and so I landed there. I showed my credentials and was shooed away. “This is not the station for you. There is another school, just check that out.” There was a bad (!) citizen next to me who got angry at being like me constantly shunted. He screamed, “India will never prosper. With this kind of system, how do you expect 100 per cent polling? You won’t even get 50 per cent.”

For their sake, I should vote.

I wasn’t angry because I had no expectations. I decided to return home. Then it flashed: there is the army fighting for us at Siachen in sub-zero temperature. For their sake, I should vote. There are the jawans who earn a pittance and still brave for us. For their sake, I should vote.

So I checked into another school. At the entrance, I asked whether this was my polling booth. “Tell me which party you belong and I will tell you.” I hissed the 5 lettered English word that guys in school hiss when they get angry. The word ends with the letter ‘s’. I walked down and asked a cop who wanted to know my ‘Part No.’ I gave him. He asked if I knew my serial number. I said, “Yes.” He was mighty pleased and asked me to join a line.

Finally, I voted. After pressing the button, I saw the VVPAT machine. Ah, it showed the same person’s face, but the red light was refusing to stop. The polling officer said, “No issues. It would end in some time.

Pleased at having successfully voted about 80 minutes after leaving home, and having braved 55 minutes of checking for my station, I left, pleased with myself. Those guys stood in queues for hours during demonetisation. Can I not struggle like a vagabond for a mere 55 minutes? For the guys at Siachen? I drove home. All the hotels were closed. Where was my breakfast? Where was the promised 10 per cent discount if I voted? Phew.

That night I learned that my constituency was the one, which had the least voting per cent. Well done, I told myself.

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