Our Resident Activist was in full flow the other morning. The gnome of a fellow wrapped up in an enormous shawl grabbed me by the wrist and fixed me with his beady eyes. Sharp, piercing. I eased out of his grasp, “What are you so desperate about?” I asked, a little confused by his unusual show of savagery.
He continued to stare. Then he took a deep breath and hissed, “I hope you are going to vote.”
“Maybe,” I teased, “maybe.’ I looked up as if towards a Divine Being up above. “Maybe. Inshalla.”
“What do you mean by that? You mean you won’t vote? Listen Sir, voting is your right. It’s your democratic right. Whoever you vote for is your business, entirely your business, vote for whoever you want… but vote. Go out and vote. Stake your claim, say to yourself — ‘this is my right. I participate in the making of democracy’. Say it over and over again. Listen, it is your fundamental right.”
“I have other fundamental rights,” I replied, “but they just don’t get met. I mean, come on Baghel, our fundamental rights are being flouted every moment in this city, in this state, in this country. Do you want me to explain?”
“That’s not the point,” he cut me short. “That’s not the point at all. All I am saying is that since it is your fundamental right to vote, you should exercise it. What’s wrong with that?”
I knew I was irritating him so I persisted ribbing him. And he responded beautifully. “But what’s the point?”
“What do you mean? Don’t you want your man there representing you?’
“Sure,” I smiled, “I’d love that because my man or woman should be a dog-lover, a bird-watcher, a joker, a trekker, someone who seeks adventure. Only such a person would be sensitive to life. My candidate should be a sensitive person.”
“You are making fun of me.”
“Not at all Baghel.’
“I have a first name, I don’t like being called by my surname.” He was visibly irritated but he wouldn’t let up. “Okay sir, let’s say that you have duties to perform. Voting is one of them. This is expected of you.”
“Duties? You are talking about citizen’s duties?”
“Yes I am.”
“What about the duties of those who we elect? How many of them have performed or are performing their duties as elected leaders?”
“That’s not the point Sir,’ he reacted, retreating into the folds of his shawl, his eyes glowing from within.
“Then what’s the point? What’s the point of voting?”
“What do you think our great freedom fighters laid their lives down for?” He asked, putting up one last fight. Then before I could answer, he turned and walked away with a deep sigh.
“Ha, ha,” I said to myself, “wound the fellow up. Really got a rise from him.”
On election day, I donned my khadi kurta and pyjama and headed out to participate in the great democratic process. History was waiting to be written again. At our front gate I was greeted by Baghel with folded palms. “Greetings. Off to vote eh?’
“No I said. I’m going for my morning walk.” Then I walked off, heading for history. Baghel came scrambling behind me, panting his lungs out.
“You are going to vote?” He asked again.
I nodded only when I had reached the polling booth. He smiled. I smiled. Voting over I trudged back, waving occasionally to familiar morning walkers who were all out in their khadi outfits.
Halfway home I heard a familiar panting following me. “Wait, wait,” it was Baghel.
“You voted, did you?” He wanted to know.
“Sure. You saw me. What about you?”
“My name wasn’t on the list,” he sighed.
“Hmm, that’s democracy for you….many are called but few are chosen.”