(Before deciding to write about what arguably is the most depressing moment of my life, I really thought a lot about how foolish this will make me look. I felt I had a reputation to keep up. However, the upside to sharing this story seemed much more than concealing it for keeping my personal reputation intact. )
The time was 7:30 in the evening today. Usual day at office. I had checked in at 8 am and after a busy day at work, decided to retire for the day and leave home at 5 pm. However, for some strange reason , I decided to put in some more time to plan my next few days at work. In order to avoid distractions, I put my phone on silent mode and tucked it away in my bag. Two productive hours of work interspersed with a small brainstorming session with colleagues was enough to make me feel good about having had a good day at work.
Just before leaving , I put my phone back on to find seven missed calls from my mother , brother and father registered on my phone. Never ever had this happened before. Slightly worried , I called my mother back. One ring, two rings, and so on. Every new ring made me even more anxious. Finally, after thirteen really long beeps, someone picked the phone up.
What followed was a tirade of abuses from my brother. @#ck&* , Idiot , &&@)! and other such unmentionable and creative abuses . My father took over and continued the ritual, although in a more civilized manner. Finally , my mother took over and said , ” Ashwin! You idiot. The Lok Sabha polling for our constituency was held today and ended 2 hours back. You led us to believe that the election was a week away. We believed you and today because of you none of us voted.”
I could hardly come to terms with what just happened. It took me a while to realize that I just missed voting during what is probably the defining General Election in this country just because I, an “educated” citizen ( and I feel ashamed as I say this), was misinformed about the polling dates of my constituency. Damn! Worse still, I had discussed about the ” April 24 elections ” for the past 5 weeks at home leading everyone in my family to believe that the election was on April 24, instead of today. The comedy of errors continued when my parents discussed the ” April 24 elections” with neighbors who also got misled and in turn misled others. A chain reaction of massive proportions.
I was so depressed that I could not think about anything else. All I could see about was fingernails. I spent an entire 40 minutes in an otherwise boring train journey , just trying to scan people’s fingernails to figure out whether they had voted. I was too ashamed to take the easier route of asking them. While in the train , I also hypothesized some conspiracy theories. The most prominent one was that the corrupt leaders in my constituency deliberately kept poll dates a low-key affair to dissuade the ” educated” youth like me from voting. I also tried to rationalize the act by calling up my mom and dad and asking them which party they would have voted for. The fact that my mother and father would have voted for Party A and I and my brother would have voted for party B , slightly quelled my distress, since it did not really affect the vote difference. Sort of like what a draw does to goal difference in football. Then , I mentally slapped myself for giving such a stupid rationalization. The truth, however hard to digest, was that I majorly screwed up.
I have always voted ever since I turned 18. I had just shifted to a house which fell under a new Lok Sabha constituency and one of the first things I did was get my name transferred to the electoral rolls of my new area. The elections of this year seemed very exciting and I was eagerly looking forward to D-day when I could vote and flaunt my finger. I had even attended a policy discussion meeting of a political party. However, it was not to be. A head hung with shame was all I was left with.
Imagine a bride who has been preparing all these days for her dream wedding with the man of her dreams, only to realize on the morning of the wedding that the groom eloped overnight with another girl.If that sounds too tragic, imagine the guy who prepared for an exam overnight , only to fall asleep on the day of the exam. Or the guy who just practiced for a marathon for 6 long months only to arrive at the venue 2 hours after the race ended because well, he didn’t know the start time. These are the exact emotions that have been running through my head since the past 3 hours.
Kis muh se Modi ko crony capialist kahoonga? Kis muh se Kejriwal ko dramebaaz kahoonga? Kis muh se Sonia ko firang fraud kahoonga?
After all I didn’t even vote.
As I boarded the bus back from the station back home, all I wanted to see was still just fingernails. And I am yet to see a single fingernail with indelible ink on it. I spoke to a few people, but sadly none of them shared the trauma I was going through.
All the drama aside, this incident offered me a lot of lessons. I realized that awareness and civic responsibility is still a far cry in urban areas. I could have voted, even if 1 person had not taken my words at face value . I could have voted even if one guy in my apartment had tried to be proactive about the polls and tried to make an effort to get people to vote. I could have voted, if 1 guy on the train decided to speak about the election, instead of playing Temple Run. I could have voted if that 1 guy was actually me.
For all those folks who have managed to read my story till this line, I earnestly appeal to you : vote, and make people vote. Get people out of their houses. Trip their cable connections ( and restore it later:) ) or knock furiously at their door. Put posters on their door. Ring their doorbell till they wear those god damn shoes , go out and vote. I hope no one ever gets the chance to feel as miserable as I do now.
And if someone still misses out on voting, I wish they end up feeling as miserable as me. In the words of a professor whose name I don’t recall , ” May a thousand crows shit on your head when you walk out of your house “. Because, NOT VOTING IS JUST NOT DONE.
Till then, I have 5 long years to wait.