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As citizens, when will we realise that Change has to begin with us and be led by us, rather than waiting for a mysterious ‘them’ to resolve issues?
It was Assembly Elections in Karnataka this month. On election days, democracy is tested to the hilt and its failures become obvious in that one day of self-realisation. And then we feign ignorance for five years. The self-realisation in Indian democracy is like the rare jungle flower which blooms only for a single day every five years.
As I stood in the queue to vote, I witnessed this rare flower bloom and wither all around me and within me too.
“They should have organised the polling better, there is no clarity here, People are confused.” Said one harrowed soul, maybe quite sure, that his tax money can take care of the shortage of organisation skill in our neighbourhood.
In the flurry of ‘they should haves’ I wondered who ‘they’ are. Do they even exist? Do they even know us? Do they even care for us? And then came the stark realisation that in democracy ‘they’ are ‘us’; ‘we’ are ‘they’. Oh dear me, that includes me too! This was our polling centre and these were our polling booths and there was no one more interested in our polls as we were. We, Me included, should have ensured proper management of the booths. We should have ensured better organisation. And if things went wrong, oops we had gone wrong. But who will inform this to the innocent feudal remains of our complicated culture. They were criticising themselves! And they were criticising me too!
As I stood in the queue, my hands were itching to hold the book I was reading. I was revising the list of must watch movies in my mind and at times the heat of the summer morning sun distracted me from my idle musing. I did not have democracy on top of my mind. Election day is the holiday. And holiday means fun, shopping, movies and eat outs. Casting vote is just so I can facebook the black spot on my left index finger. People seem to have really taken to this fashion.
And anyway we had come to give alms not votes, to the least of the undeserving candidates. So these candidates had to ensure streamlining of the polling booth. And therefore we never hold ourselves accountable. And to make things simple for all, we never ask for our politicians to be accountable either.
We are a wannabe nation, learning to be democratic. Our heart still lies in the despotic system. Someone told us that our country is democracy so we acted as if we were choosing leaders. Pssst… Our leaders are choosing us. They pay the voters to vote for them, and the lord who pays more, gets more votes. They are not our representatives, they have our weakest nerves in their clutches. They are probably our real lords in today’s perspective.
Someone else can bring about change, while I comment on soggy popcorn watching a blockbuster movie in a air-conditioned theatre. Inhale-exhale-eat-sleep: this is our mantra. Our entitlements? That is why we have this democracy, right? This imported system of social alignment, it’s really cool and all that! We are all in stark wonderment of our right to vote in this new system where our word makes a difference. Our heart lies with the princely system, and so we are a nation of commoners in a kingdom of lords, not leaders. These leaders have people of their own, they demarcate by caste, geography, religion, education, occupation, prosperity and many more such criteria. And I wonder if we have even the right to choose anything about our leaders. Probably not.
We are traders at heart, we sell our votes for money, a kilo of rice, an admission in school or college for our kids. Anything-can-happen-in-India and most Indians are comfortable taking advantage of this civic feature, rather than correcting it.
We go to the polling booth expecting red carpet treatment. After all we are giving alms to a perfect stranger! Our candidates never claim they represent us. They simply represent a party, a manifesto and a leader. So guess what! He should have ensured that we are taken care of. When there is confusion in the polling booth we wonder, didn\’t they need our votes? We could have cleaned our ears, polished our shoes, had our tea, hugged our kids, answered few mails etc. etc. in the time we wasted trying to vote for someone we don\’t even know. Oh bother!
I came back from my musing to note yet another example of imperial democracy. The people who stood in the queue complaining about the erroneous issues with the polling booths began littering. Like really throwing bits of papers at their respective feets. They were in a school campus. Obviously this was not a school where those voters send their kids. Somehow in that moment, I could bear it no more. Already I was mangled to pieces with their constant complaint about our inability to organise the polling booth. I would have no more of it. And it was an easy one too!! Before I realised, I was picking up the litter and throwing them in the nearby trash can, neatly labelled for all to see. Lo and behold the littering stopped. Someone thanked me for disposing the litter and people got the message.
I have a kid I know that children break rules to take out their frustration. But they don’t allow anyone below the age of 18 to vote. So what were we educated, adult, accomplished Bangalorians upto? The polling booth had issues and no one, including me did anything about finding a way to sort the problem that day. Everyone coped with it in their own way. Some complained and others just found their way around. The Indian constitution kept burning in a rotisserie over this surrogate democracy! We went home to our breakfast and other things.
Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe now. For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.
I am a Chartered Accountant and a Mother of a 7 year old. Writing is
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