Take a Walk.......

Monday, May 10, 2010


It was a funny moment last week, while eating dinner at 10 past 9 in the night we decided that we should vote for the General and Local Council Elections and it wasn't really my idea.

We quickly finished our dinner and were at the polling booth by 9:45 and Voila! There we were, I voted for the first time in my life and I didn't feel anything. Probably I am just too insensitive or maybe just too callous about the significance of big moments in life or maybe not. Maybe it just wasn't a big deal!

Believe me, for whatever I am, I am not ignorant. I have worked with politicians before, canvassed for them, sat at the polling booth, distributed pamphlets, handed out polling cards to people and escorted them to polling stations, but never actually voted. I can have pretty set political views and being a North Indian, I think I am bound to.

After a lot of introspection I think I have found the reason for not voting back home. It's just too complicated! For someone who hasn't stayed in the same house, suburb or city for more than a few years it is just too complicated to get the right documents in place to get a voting or a ration card. Add to that, A Muslim North Indian living in Mumbai who doesn't speak Marathi!

Imagine a real conversation that I have had a few times in Mumbai at some government offices.

I visit the ration card office and I lost, all signs are in Marathi except the name of the officers which is in both Marathi and English. I ask someone who looks very busy as to where should I go for putting my name on the ration card. He looks bewildered since I spoke Hindi, tries to compose himself and says in Marathi that I should look at the boards and walks off.

After 30 mins or so I work my way to an office hereby referred to as officer1. Officer1 most probably is a Kacha wearing cadre or drinks his weekends at the local Sena shakha. Here is the conversation where myself is speaking in Hindi and officer1 in Marathi,

Me: I need to put my name of the ration card.

Officer1: Why? (off course you can't you just spoke in Hindi!)

Me: To get a voter card and just in general.

Officer1: Why didn't you get it done till date? What were you waiting for? (Still speaking Hindi damnit, I already hate you!)

Me: I just moved into local area.

Officer1: Where do you come from, which state?

Me: I have my old Ration Card in UP where I am from.

Officer1 thinking, "Who are you kidding! Bhaiyya wanting Mumbai ration card, my drinking buddies will like this joke"

Officer1: No new names are being put right now, come back a few months later.

I persist and try to argue for a while, forcing the officer1 to reconsider my case and he starts his investigation again.

Officer1: What is your name?

Me: Asif

Officer1: What is your last name? Tell your full name.(Sounds dodgy, let me confirm though)

Me: The surname is Khan.

Officer1 is shaken a bit at what he just heard, "North Indian Muslim wants a ration card in Mumbai so that he can register to vote, Aai Zhavla" and translates it as "Prospective Terrorist wants to settle in Mumbai forever and steal my kids future"

Officer1 to Me: As I told you, no new names can be put on the ration card for the next few months, If you want anything more go to XYZ Saab who is on leave so come some other day.

Officer1 thinking "I just saved my nation, Shivaji will be happy with me. Jai Maharashtra!"

After trying hard to argue for a while, knowing the futility of my mission, I leave dejected and frustrated! I know the easier option is to pay a fat bribe to an agent who will go the same officer and get my work done in a few weeks.

Now contrast this with my experience in the UK. I move into a new house and some friends suggest that I better get my name registered on the electoral roll as it will help for my credit checks. I call up the local council office who post the form to me by speed post. I fill up the form, attach a copy of my passport and send it over. A few days later I receive a letter stating that my name will be added in the next quarterly cycle and it does get added! and iVote :D

To clarify a few points, I am not an Anglophile who hates India and Loves England in fact I know a few such ppl and hate them. But I believe what's fact must be spoken. There are lot of things that piss me off in this country too and there are times when I strongly feel that the bureaucracy that India suffers from is actually inherited from England. There are so many things that are so much simpler to get done in India then in England! More of experiences with such events later.

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