I am 21 years old. Since I turned 18 and moved to Delhi, I have seen Delhi go through 3 elections.
I have never voted.
When I was a kid, I’d accompany my parents to the polling booth. I’d wait in the car, nose pressed against the window, watching people turn up in their Sunday best, to vote (why though? Why did they feel the need to deck up? Because it comes once in 5 years? Or because, much like a shaadi, you never know which long-lost crush you might run into?) I’d admire the smooth way everything was handled (my dad laughs every time I tell him this, telling me to watch videos of what exactly happens in polling booths in more turbulent constituencies) and I’d envy the purple mark on the fingers because it was like the mark of adulthood.
And then by the time I was old enough to get a voter ID… and that doesn’t mean I was 18 by the way, it means someone was kind enough to take pity on me and agree that I looked old enough to vote. Unfair because I know people who have like 5 voter ids-without a photo, without a name, without an address… and yes, it is a proof of identity. To get back to the point, by the time I got a voter ID card, I was away from home, pining away in a PG in a city that saw no government for months and 3 elections in 1 and a half years… and did I mention, I COULDN’T VOTE!
Yes my permanent address is not Delhi. It’s far away in a place where we actually know who the CPI (M) candidate in our constituency is. And now #DelhiVotes is trending on Twitter, and everyone on my newsfeed is posting velfies or whatever the term is-the one which makes it acceptable to take pictures of your index finger and share it on social media like it is a selfie with Roger Federer or consider it a mark of patriotism or whatever, and as I walk unsteadily to college on a Monday morning, the guy who sweeps the road outside is talking to the person who drives the next-door-neighbour’s-car and they say, AAP ko vote diya and my friend’s autowallah says “Kiran Bedi ne gaddari ki hai” and Modiji’s face stares unblinkingly at me from hoardings and sometimes I think of the elections I have lived through and think of Rahul Gandhi sitting in Abki Bar and I feel so depressed because I’m curled up in my ivory-coloured blanket while the world moves on, without me and my vote.
I should have got registered as a student voter away from home, but hardly anyone knows that such a provision exists and well I definitely didn’t. And no one I know has made use of this provision so clearly there’s something off with the publicity and awareness campaigns. And we all know what kind of hassles one faces while getting that name on the voter list. Difficult enough to get a voter id, but if you top all that with change in residence and proof from college and everything else, it seems easier to just go home to vote. Yes this is the bureaucratic system in the country. Yes, this is what you have to go through for the most basic right in a democracy- the right to vote. (Moral- know the rules and know the loopholes before you vote!)
The rational bit of me says that one vote wouldn’t make a difference to anyone. But there’s also an ideological belief that I won’t be a citizen of the country till I can vote. That I won’t be an adult till I have an ink-stained finger. It’s a mark of patriotism. It’s a mark of coolness. And everyone you meet stares at your finger now and judges you silently and you must bury your head in shame and want to go back home desperately. And moving away from home means no home food, and strange beds and random people to share rooms with… but it also means no regular visit to the polling booth. (Or you know, to the neighbourhood chai-wallah who would give you gossip about the entire street, but you get the point.)
Some people might think it’s not cool for a city to have so many election days so soon. But I will be like those countless young idiots, who spend election day watching TV shows and having breakfast at fancy diners and rue the presence of a clean finger.
By Shreemayee Das