Now that Buddy is feeling so much better and his old bouncy – yes, he doesn’t run, he bounces – happy, sparkly self is re-emerging, my mind is slowly losing it’s thick layer of fog, letting in mundane thoughts. Also that the work of the conference is successfully behind me (I will tell you about it next but you must excuse me today for rambling about things I usually do not), so I can safely venture into a routine life that has eluded me for what seems like a hundred years!
Read on, because I do have have some interesting anecdotes for you, but if you must go, then please do so.
Why’s there this huge fixation on religion in our country? Much as we call ourselves a secular democracy there’s no denying the fact that the core of almost every and anything is stitched to religion.
‘Hum aisa nahin karte, hum yeh nahin khaate, hum wahan nahin jaate’ (We do not do this, we do not eat this, we do not go there). The ‘we’ invariably indicating a particular religion, sect or caste.
Being an agnostic, I find this unfathomable and rather irksome.
Take for instance the elections.
Every conversation leading to, surrounding it or remotely related to it is invariable tinged with divisive religious emotions like that is the most important decisive factor when you cast your vote and not issues like women safety or cleaning up our rivers. That one cannot express one’s dissent or support without being dissected mercilessly just because the audience in question at that moment happened to have opinions varied from yours is a very unhealthy situation. My Vote is ‘My Choice’ and it certainly doesn’t have to match yours. But right now in India, if you are from a particular religion or sect you are expected to unanimously agree with the general opinion and vote for a particular candidate or face ridicule and social ostracism!
The other day, I happened to take an auto to go pick up my car from P’s hospital where I’d left it the previous night. Why? That’s another story for another day. The point is, I took an auto and like I always do, I stuck up a conversation with the driver.
‘So, who are you voting for?, I very incorrectly came right to the point.
He wasn’t from Delhi he said, but from Uttar Pradesh, obviously queasy and hoping to avoid my question.
So isn’t he going home to vote?
No, he isn’t because it’s too far.
‘Why didn’t you get your Voter ID card here? The government had made things so much easier for voters this time. You mustn’t let your vote go waste. Don’t you want inflation to come down?’, I embarked on a lengthy mission to educate him about the dangers of not voting.
‘So, if you go home after all, who will you vote for?’, I can be quite relentlessly persistent, believe me!!
I guess he realised this, for he finally ventured, ‘MadamJi, hum to Samajwadi ko hi vote dete hain’. (Madam, we usually vote for the Samajwadi party’.
Kya matlab ‘dete hain’?
‘What do you mean ‘we usually vote for’? Who tells you whom to vote for? Have you not noticed the wreckage in UP? Are you still voting for Samajwadi party?
Almost in a whisper he said, ‘Haan, is baar to saare Hindu waale sab BJP ko hi denge’ unsure of where I was leading this conversation. ( Yes, this time all the Hindus are going to vote for the Bharatiya Janata party)
There it was once again, the Hindu –Muslim sentiment!
AAP ko kyon nahin?, I countered. (Why not the Aam Aadmi Party?)
He braked, turned back to look at me excitedly and asked ‘aap Aam Aadmi party ko denge, Madam?’ (Are you voting for the Aam aadmi Party, Madam?)
By then I was at my destination and escaped with a ‘Why not’, but he left me wondering if he was a AAP supporter and like so many common people had his hopes pinned for a much needed change on this new party with grand promises and if AAP can actually deliver.
Today is the BIG day here as Delhi goes to the polls. There has been no dearth of reminders to go vote –SMSes from the Chief Election Commissioner, radio, TV and newspaper inserts and even poll related paraphernalia for sale – hair and sweat bands, bags, cups, balloons, earrings, stickers and posters that will invariably be outdated at 6 PM today evening but this hasn’t deterred young voters with little knowledge of the political realities of India from buying and flaunting them.
With over 30 000 cops with the latest tech devices geared up to guard the Capital and extension of poll timings by extra 2 hours, Delhi is all set to go decide who wears the crown.
Only it isn’t all that easy for one to decide who one should ink one’s finger for!
There’s Modi and the BJP who have been all over the newspapers never for one morning letting you forget their promise of a safe stable government and women empowerment.
But loud vitriolic speeches that inspire passionate emotions of religious and castist division or that which take derogatory potshots at women from the opposition aren’t ‘safe’ and definitely belie ‘stability and women empowerment’. History shows that a leader who inspires inflammatory emotions of racial differences instead of calm confidence, peace and respectability can be perilous.
Then there’s Rahul Gandhi and the Congress.
The other day I happened across a FB update by a young volunteer at a local Animal NGO. She, on her way back from work, ran across RG at a traffic crossing in Race Course. It was around 10PM and Rahul was out with his three adopted street puppies for a drive, windows down and the three dogs sticking their delighted faces out into the cool night air. Before the light turned green and RG drove away into the night, the young girl had her moment of excitement chatting to him about the dogs and the work she does. Later, she couldn’t stop gushing about ‘the handsome Congress VP’ and declared her vote for him!
The Gandhi charm is legendary. It has long been rumoured that apart from its innate ability to fetch votes, it is also perhaps the single most important reason why the oldest and largest political party in India is irrevocably in awe of the dynastic Gandhi clan. The young Gandhi scion, with his charming dimpled smile and polished manners (not to mention adopted street dogs) could easily waltz into the hearts of and glean votes from many a young Indian voter but the likes of me who have had their hearts beating for nearly four decades now, know better. At least, we think we do!
As more and more Indians are getting to realize the damages done by dynastic governments (Books like ‘Durbar’ by Tavleen Singh that I’m reading at the moment haven’t helped matters for Rahul Gandhi!), the wish to see the loss of inheritance has deepened.
So then, one is left with AAP. The Aam Aadmi Party – the party for the common masses with its illustrious Kejriwal, grand promises of instant change, the immediate connect with the poorest of the poor.
A lot of expectations, hopes and optimism were associated with AAP till just a few months back. It still is – I’ve seen poor rickshaw pullers who hardly make Rs.500 per day make donations to party funds- but after it’s government’s 49 day stint in Delhi, I’m not so sure anymore. Too young to be written off, too young to be unanimously upheld and quite full of everything the common Indian has been vying to hear, AAP minus the histrionics, could be the choice of many an Indian.
But the key words here are ‘Minus the histrionics’!
So here one is, back at square one!
There’s NOTA of course, the provision of ‘None of the above’. (NOTA, introduced in the EVMs –Electronic voting machines- that allows you to reject all the candidates if you do not deem any of them fit for your vote but still let’s you exercise your right ensuing it isn’t misused by a proxy.)
Or maybe, one should flip a coin.
Oh wait! Even a coin has just two faces unlike the chameleon colours in Indian politics.
Well, all this pondering hasn’t made me any wiser. And I do need to go vote. It’s so hot outside. What am I wearing? Almost as difficult to decide. Sigh!