The hubbub at the polling station : The Tribune India

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The hubbub at the polling station

The hubbub at  the polling station

Photo for representational purpose only. File photo

Shankar Gopalkrishnan

IT’S polling day. An enormous crowd greets us at the polling station. We thought we could beat everyone by reaching early. Others have thought likewise. There are multiple lines, multiple rooms and the invariable confusion. Self-styled leaders step forward to keep the flock together: ‘I repeat, this is the line to room number 4!’

‘Oh, I thought this was the line to room number 2!’ someone shouts. Call it Murphy’s law — anything that can go wrong will go wrong — the room we have been assigned to has the longest line. Some give up too soon: ‘I think I will come back at noon. I am certain there will be no crowd at that time!’ You have half a mind to interject: ‘Sir, if you go home now, you will never come back!’

Waiting is not easy. Though the morning is young, the sun is harsh. A motley crowd mills all around — the young, the old and the overly old. Some are bent with age and can barely walk. They are escorted by their caregivers to the polling room directly. Friends, acquaintances, colleagues — we get a chance to meet everyone. Meeting once in five years isn’t too bad after all.

The serpentine queue moves slowly but surely. Observing people, their body language, their conversation keeps you busy. You are now at the threshold of the room.

The din and clatter of the world are left behind the moment you step in. There is a hush, like the silence in an examination hall. There is one presiding officer and a few poll officers seated behind tables. Another officer waits with the indelible ink swab. You now wait for your turn to step into the EVM counter.

Standing in front of the machine, I look at the options. In a momentary lapse of concentration, my finger may stray, and I may inadvertently press the wrong button. That’s what happened to Kumbhakarna. After enormous tapas, Lord Brahma appeared before him. A moment of indiscretion cost Kumbhakarna dearly. He wanted to seek ‘nir-devatvam as a boon — ‘May no deva have lordship over me.’ Suddenly, his tongue slurred and he blurted out ‘nidraavatvam’ — ‘May I enjoy sleep!’

The Kumbhakarna story is so mesmerising that I almost doze off, right in front of the EVM. ‘Sir! What are you doing? Press the button!’ an impatient polling officer wakes me up. I make the selection decisively. The EVM beeps, the candidate’s visual appears on the tiny screen and finally, I am done.

Once out of the polling booth, I cannot contain my smile. It is time for a round of selfies with the indelible ink on the finger prominently displayed.

A great sense of pride and achievement runs through the being. It is a feeling of being ‘part of the process’, a feeling that I am an ‘active member’ of the world’s largest democracy.

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