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'When I finally voted!'

By Sukanya Verma
Last updated on: April 27, 2004 22:14 IST
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When you are a child, you are in a hurry to grow up and do all the things that adults do.

I was also like one of those kids. Back then, I used to think a job meant wearing lipstick and walking tall with high-heeled sandals accompanied by a leather purse on the shoulder, preferably stuffed with scribbled bits of paper and ballpoint pens.

Of course, the 'real thing' was drastically different.

Voting was another 'grown-up thing' that excited me.

Every election season I would make a mark on my fingernail with a black ink pen like they do before you cast your ballot.

"Wow, I get to choose my own prime minister? Is that cool or what," was the general idea in my head.

I was about 11 or 12 years old when I began campaigning for a local MLA from the Janata Dal. He stayed in the same residential society as me.

I wasn't the only one. There was an entire bunch of eager kids volunteering to do the same. We would prepare the voters' slips, shout slogans, and tie green-coloured bandanas with the party symbol on our head.

At the end of it all, we would be remunerated with two piping hot vada pavs. Vada pavs are heavenly when your mom doesn't allow you junk food from outside.

Did the man we campaign for win? No. But at an age when no one takes you seriously, contributing towards the campaign instilled a sense of importance and responsibility.

Years passed and I turned 18. What an age to be! I could get a driving licence. I could drink beer (though now the minimum age to enter a bar is 21). I could get married. Why, I could even vote, finally!

So when the first polls happened after I turned 18, my best friend and I got ourselves registered in the voters' list.

But when voter identity cards were delivered, mine was nowhere. Evidently the whole 'registering' exercise was a farce. The authorities concerned never updated the list.

I was terribly disappointed and decided never to vote again.

Flash forward: A few days ago, I saw three voter identity cards stuck against the door handle. This time there was mine too! All this time I believed I had lost all interest in voting. But one look at my name on the card renewed all the excitement.

I decided to vote.

When I walked towards the polling booth, I was nervous, excited, and anxious.

To my surprise, very few people had turned up to vote.

I entered the room and produced my voting card at one counter. One man gave me a slip, which I handed over to a woman. The woman took my signature on a register. Another woman made ink markings on my finger. "Nail polish?" she asked with a smile while struggling to apply the ink. Interestingly, the ink marking is no longer at the base of the nail but on either side.

Next, I headed towards a blue electronic voting machine with red buttons next to the name of every candidate/party. In my overenthusiasm, I pushed the key even before the machine signalled 'ready'. And when it was ready I pressed the button so many times, I feared I must have voted four times for the same person. I was assured no such thing happened.

April 26 is a special date. Not because it's movie star Jet Li's birthday. It marks the day I finally got to do what 'grown-ups' do.

Text: Sukanya Verma | Image: Uttam Ghosh
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Sukanya Verma