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I voted ma’am……….

May 12, 2009

The elections are going on in India right now and I have been trying to decide whether or not to write about them. I have hesitated mostly because I just don’t know that much about them. I do know that India is the world’s largest democracy – so you can imagine with a billion people voting, there’s a lot going on. Part of my problem has been just how exactly to narrow it down. There are many, many candidates and political parties – I think about 30.

The voting has been going on since sometime in April – it takes a month to get all the voting done. It is an amazing process. People get the day off. People have been killed at voting stations.

Last Thursday was Delhi’s day to vote. Delhi police sent out 55,000 policemen to monitor the voting stations. Expats seem to mostly agree that it’s better just to lay low on election day. Markets can be closed – protesters can be demonstrating. It apparently can get quite chaotic.

Well, our driver Khan solved my little writing dilemma. I asked him to run an errand for me on Thursday. He asked if he could stop and vote along the way.

Of course.

Then, a while later, he dropped me off at school. He rushed out of the car to open my door. He had the biggest smile on his face.  Like a kid who just won a pony – not a mere ride on a pony – but a whole pony. And he said, “I voted ma’am.”

That is great Khan. Very, very good.

Yes ma’am. Sonia. Congress. I voted ma’am.

Oh, I have heard of her. Very good!

Still smiling. Yes ma’am. I voted. He left me with the impression that I simply did not understand the magnitude of this privilege for him. And when you really think about the implications of this – there are a billion voters in India – Khan believes his vote was important – that it matters. Wow. I can tell from the look on his face it does, in fact, matter very much.

In all the time he has worked for us, he has never really initiated conversation. I don’t say this lightly when I say that I believe that this is the most important he has ever had to say to me.

It took me by surprise. The thrill of the vote. Yet another thing I guess I have been taking for granted. I vote and I am proud that I vote. But I have forgotten the joy of voting. What a luxury it really is.

Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to vote. I have just been reminded what a precious gift it really is.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Sharmishtha permalink
    May 13, 2009 9:01 pm

    The poor in India turn out in droves to vote, while the more privileged classes usually plead an excuse – work, heat, coffee morning, etc. It’s the one thing that India’s first Prime Minister Nehru got right – universal suffrage without any poll taxes or educational limits or other “wealth” barriers to eligibility. Despite all the naysayers in the last sixty years, giving everyone the right to vote has been the single most empowering thing in modern India.

    Politics has also been the one area where men and women can work together as colleagues without any of the traditional discomfort about gender boundaries. And women can even call the shots. Think Indira Gandhi, Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Mamata Bannerjee, Sonia Gandhi, Vasundhara Raje. In India, your daughter may not be allowed to date but she can certainly work shoulder-to-shoulder with any man in a political party. That’s India for you – “a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma”. With no apologies to Winston Churchill who was dead set against independent and democratic India.

  2. Roy permalink
    May 13, 2009 3:18 pm

    That too all electronic voting, always perfect counting!!! no recounts whatsoever no courts and no drama after wards (other than the post election alliance drama that is about to begin)

    http://www.slate.com/id/2107388/

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3493474.stm

  3. Jasmeet permalink
    May 13, 2009 12:58 pm

    Jurate – The low turn out was a simple message by the Mumbaikar to the government in Delhi – Why should be take the trouble to walk to the polling booth you can’t take the trouble or rather simply can’t even protect my life?

    E – I wonder, if voting would have been such a great thing if voters were to choose someone between a Bush and a McCain. Ha! (With due respect to the Rep in you, :P)

  4. May 13, 2009 11:43 am

    Podunk had its election yesterday, and I’m so glad it’s over. We had five friends running for offices, and we’ve had to sit through endless hours of campaign drama every time we left the house. They all won, so it’s all good. We can go back to bitching about the weather now 😉

  5. May 13, 2009 3:33 am

    I voted too ma’am! He he ha ha!

  6. May 13, 2009 2:06 am

    I was very surprised as it seemed that everyone was voting, so many projects, so much excitement… I am waiting to find out the results from all over India.

  7. May 13, 2009 2:02 am

    Deep – I am amazed at how this is all orchestrated!
    Tottsmom – agreed!
    Christy – we just take so much for granted in the U.S.
    Baba – that is a very good policy!
    Ke – me too
    Loco – yeah – it’s remarkable – one vote does matter
    Jurate – that is too bad, really, really, too bad!

  8. May 13, 2009 1:35 am

    After all the election buzz media was trying to create, turn out in Mumbai was just 43% or so….

  9. May 13, 2009 12:39 am

    a precious gift indeed!
    Coming from a community’s who general mindset was (until recently) what difference does my vote make, just the lesser of two evils-and not that much less at that- I know exactly how you feel and how Khan feels!
    Thanks for sharing (-;

  10. May 12, 2009 9:59 pm

    Looks like Sonia Gandhi and congress might win. I was picking up some Indian take out the other day and the guy told me he too wanted congress to win and if he were there, that’s who he would have voted for.

    But I’d like to get some perspective on this from your indian readers.

  11. May 12, 2009 1:31 pm

    So true. So many of us in the US take our voting privilege for granted and many do not vote at all. Such a shame. Our policy in our home is that if you do not vote then you have no right to complain.

  12. Christy y. permalink
    May 12, 2009 1:19 pm

    thank u so much for sharing this info and insight into what voting means to some people. it’s really touching.

  13. Tottsmom permalink
    May 12, 2009 10:40 am

    I wonder what the turn out will be. In the US it is horrible, although it seems to be getting better. I vote, and usually take at least one of my kids with me. It is my way of helping them understand how important the privilage to vote is to America. You may not always get the canidate you voted for to win, but your voice was heard. And a final note, I agree, THANK YOU to all of those that uphold my right to vote.

  14. May 12, 2009 10:24 am

    The media’s been going all out asking people to vote, sorta like Michael Moore’s Slacker Uprising.

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