Chaotic Thoughts

Identity Crisis and The Indian Election Mahakumbh!

“Where are you from?”

I am often asked this question.

I blame my non distinctive looks that place me anywhere from the North Eastern region of India to Nepal, Tibet, Thailand. Once I was even excitedly pegged for a Japanese by my country men.

Sigh!

Closer home, confusion reigns supreme in my state of Uttarakhand. Folks take me for a Garhwali thanks to my extremely common Garhwali surname where as I happen to be a true blue Kumaoni.

Does it matter?

Not really. The two clans resemble each other physically, culturally and live together like peas in a pod. In fact meet one outside the state and it is like an automatic membership to the Fellowship of The Hills.

Paharis rock and rule!

Still, it doesn’t stop the twenty questions. Hence, I have memorised the name of my ancestral village and can list the Kumaoni dishes with a gusto, although in all honesty I can’t cook them and I was 11 the last time I visited the village.

Makes me wonder how much of a Kumaoni I am.

At least my identity as an Indian is intact; I have a Voter I-Card, a Pan Card, an Aadhar Card and a Passport to prove it. These are handy documents an Indian citizen should possess, especially in this election year.

April is the month that gets the Election Mahakumbh in India rolling. As my mama says, the utopian world of Indian democracy takes centre stage. It is on TV debates, in newspaper headlines, social media jokes, memes, driving conversations in social circles, blaring through loudspeakers on the roads and in the rallies, disrupting traffic, sleep, thoughts.

I was determined to cast my vote, the other two adults in my family were not registered in the electoral rolls.

Anyway, after a frantic hunt that involved rummaging through a million bags, I located my elusive Voter I- card. I carried that and a voter slip that had been hand delivered home a few days earlier. This slip was essentially a photocopy of my voter I-card with my photograph and directions to the polling station; it was a primary school in the next lane.

Evidence of election fever at its zenith was everywhere.

Colourful party flags and banners festooned the road side, tables under the shade of the trees buzzed with busy volunteers, snatches of conversations revolving around party leadership and election strategy swirled in the air.

I entered the school gates and gave my slip to the first of the officials who checked and directed me to the room where I had to cast my vote.

Luckily, my room had the shortest queue. Next door, the line snaked all the way to the main gates; I heard their Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) was not working.

Anyway, I gave the slip to the next set of officials seated with registers in front of them. I acknowledged my name as each ticked it against my information in those duplicate registers. Lastly I handed over my Voter I- card for confirmation as another register was shoved towards me to sign and get my finger inked. The official took my I-card, peered at the photograph and then theatrically held it as though matching it to my face.

He announced, “This photograph is of a person with short hair and a slim face. Is this really you?”

It was a Mission Impossible movie moment. Agent Ethan Hunt for once was not in a disguise, but was held up by a security guard. The hitch, he looked older but still devilishly handsome with long hair whipping his face. His I-card on the other hand, had a photograph that launched his career in MI 1.

It wasn’t Ethan Tom Cruise Hunt’s fault!

It was called growing older although truthfully, I may not be ageing as well as he does.

Still, think about it- the photo in those multiple registers and the slip I carried, all had the same picture as the Voter I-card I had in my hand.

The person in the photograph was me!

Crisis averted.

Yes, I voted.

12 thoughts on “Identity Crisis and The Indian Election Mahakumbh!

  1. Mahakumbh of democracy ( couldn’t have said better) and you took the successful dip! More than 800 million voters, still your identity, though with a little hitch, was verified and lo…the democracy wins hands down!
    Would love to read the kumaoni tales you have in store one day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The identity crisis is borne out of the defective DNA evolved in the Indian mindset (I guess due to thousands years of slavery)- the nagging fear of Cheating. As per first hand account of mine presiding officer election duty, the process of the tender voting ( If you find that some one has already voted in your account, then you are deprived of voting through EVM/VVPAT, rather you will be affixing stamp on the paper ballot as in the yore days and in all probabilities will not be taken in account- being a mere formality). So It is pertinent to ensure the 100% genuineness of the voter- after all this fruit of freedom is to be savored and relished by every citizen of this great nation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mama, what a thought provoking and engaging response to my post! I know where it is coming from since you were there , although on the other side of the table and who hasn’t read/ heard of how polls can be rigged. Still, we keep faith and fight for our identity and right to choose as citizens of this country.

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  3. Election idiosyncrasy / oddity- Blame it on the mutation of Gene permeating cheat codes in the DNA of our evolutionary process( Guess onslaught of thousand years slavery)- instilling fear psychosis of TENDER VOTE- (Shockingly discovered that some cheat has voted on your account and now you are permitted to vote by stamping the paper ballot (quite like in the yore days)- Thou Shall Not Press the EVM- with literally no consequence as it is merely a formality and in all probability will not be considered. So polling officer may use all the trick in their bag to ensure the true identity of the voter- after the fruits of freedom is deservedly the right of every citizen- After on this D-DAY every voter is a King (maker) and the pretender is begging / stealing ……..?

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    1. Now that you say it like that , I suppose it makes sense to double check. My grouse was with the rather dramatic way the official matched my face to my voter I Card. Incidentally, all its info was duplicated in their records along with the same photo as on my card which I was holding. Then I had the official voter slip too that was delivered home a few days earlier . At the end of the day, it all boiled down to how much resemblance I bore to the already grainy b/ w photo taken a decade ago. Anyhow, I found the voting process interesting because of the VVPAT machine. Now that was a cool fusion of technology and good old paper trail . Double checks on the counting too.

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      1. Ops! First comments vanished on posting. The second comment followed from the flashes of memory. By the way your narration is superbly overflowing with all the masala of a potboiler and I could not resist to be tagged. Sheetal thumbs up.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hailing from the hilly regions of Uttarakhand, I can vouch for the fact that Garhwalis and Kumaonis are different yet very similar in a lot of ways.

    The elections have been the topic of discussion over every cup of tea recently and even I was very eager to see the ins and outs of the whole process since 2014 but sadly couldn’t turn 18 in time πŸ˜„. Nevermind we’ll get more chances in the near future.

    Looking forward to your next blog soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy the post struck a cord and you took the time to leave such an insightful comment. Thank you Hemant! You definitely got the Garhwali- Kumaoni equation right. They are quirky, drink copious amount of tea and go into raptures at the mention of β€˜Balmithai’. As for elections, it continues to be breaking news on the papers, tv and over chai. I’m also eager to see how it all plays out.

      Liked by 1 person

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