The election atmosphere used to be different. Then I was in my high school. One fine morning I saw some people fixing a tent in front of our house. Soon it was occupied by a bunch of people dressed in strange clothes which symbolized the color of a particular party.
Pretty soon the party workers distributed leaflets to the people passing by. This was after they divided themselves into motley groups. A familiar guy from one such group visited our home and touched my father’s feet reverently.
He said he happened to be the new contestant in the fray.
His second in command gave my dad some slips. My father scrutinized them with regard to the contents.
Out of curiosity, I took a slip from my dad to study what it contained. I read out the particulars of my uncle, such as name, age and address. It also mentioned the serial number of the polling booth and its location. Once the party workers left, my father explained to me about those slips. Finally he said they confirmed a simple fact that we existed. In other words he meant to say they were the personal IDs of the adult members of our family.
When I asked him about my ID in particular, he elaborated, “Boy! You have to wait till you are twenty-one.” He further joked, “Be happy you are in our family ration card to tell the world you exist though as a minor”.
Now I gleefully reflect on my new ‘Adhar’ card, besides of course, a number of other IDs such as Pan card, passport, bank passbook, driving license, and of course, voter card that come handy while reserving an e-ticket. The insecurity I felt as a child is gone now, yet some confusion remains with the IDs. It is about how my face that looks differently on each of my various IDs.
Well, back to the simplicity of my childhood days, those days we used to have a lot of fun around election time. We listened to a variety of patriotic numbers, especially from those mega speakers. As volunteering boys from the neighborhood, each of us would be in attendance with empty tins of Vanaspathi (probably by Dalda). Party workers then would fill our tins with colored lime water to be used as paint. We used our ingenuity and converted twigs plucked from the wayside bushes into veritable brushes. Armed with this gear, we used to go on a painting spree, discoloring the fencing walls of the houses with lines sourced from myriad parties.
Later I would smuggle the remaining paint home, to write my name on the inside of our own compound walls, of course using the exciting lines like ‘Zindabad’ and ‘Vote For’.
One night, I dreamed our local candidate becoming the prime minister and all our neighborhood boys his ministers. I disclosed my dream to my grandmother. She laughed at me and wished aloud that it would not happen in her lifetime. To her politics was the last resort of someone who was wanted nowhere. Poor grandma, she must be resting in peace without issues.
Four decades later, I don’t remember my candidate returning elected; leave alone his promotion to the post of prime minister. He used to be such a simple guy supplying milk in the neighborhood. My parents were always thankful to him for their children grew up on the pure milk supplied by him. Probably he decided to rely on his cow for livelihood, than symbols and colors.