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September 24, 2010

The PRO who never voted

At this moment, when my thoughts are being draped in words, I hear rain drops pelting at the glass pane. I can feel its restlessness, it mirrors what I feel within. When the rains decided to drench a thirsty Bangalore night, I walk into the world of nostalgia, I trace back the steps form this moment to as far as I can go. The drizzle always have had the effect of a vodka in me. It burns in through my memory hole slowly and steadily like a vodka does through your throat. You never gulp vodka, you feel it.

Another hour from now, when people expect me to rejoice the moment which I consider trivial, I am reminded that whatever I do, wherever I am; I cant escape from the clutches of inevitable decay. I am growing on one side whereas at the other end, am decaying. Its been twenty four years since the unique moment when I cried and my mother smiled. At the penultimate hour of twenty three years since my first breath; the rain makes me skim through all those moments that I have shelved at various phases. The latest one that tickles my funny bone took place almost six months back.

Since I am a government employee, I am obliged to serve the country in various ways. But at the age of twenty three, I never ever imagined that I would have to conduct a poll. The heat of BBMP elections were at its peak and all the posters and banners ensured that none of the walls in Bangalore were spared. But, I was least bothered. To put it frankly, I have been an irresponsible cribbing citizen of this country who never casted a vote even though I had three chances. I never considered it worth enough to be a part of the democratic process, not that I dont believe in it, but my lethargy always surpasses my duties by yards. So BBMP elections were not even in my distraction list that could eat up a few minutes of my life. And all of a sudden, I came to know that I am appointed as the presiding officer (PRO) in a particular booth during this elections. My vocabulary fails to express the agonising moments I went through, the agony of a person who has never seen a ballot box and has to conduct the polls.

I had to attend a training session two days prior to the elections. Most of the sessions were in the domestic language and even the handouts conveyed the information in the same. Since the native language appeared nothing better than Greek to me, one can imagine what I would have learned during that day. The day before the elections, I reported at a school where I met my other "team members" (Polling officer and two assistants). Fortunately, they belonged to the same state and luckily for me, they could follow English. I thought I could communicate with the voters at the booth through these people. Finally, after a long wait, I was given the ballot box and other components. So there, I had my first rendezvous with the device that tracked a nation's destiny.

We moved on to our polling booth. It was already evening by then and even the twilight bid adieu while we arranged the room for the next day's election. I knew I had to fill up a hell lot of forms and so I pulled out the bundle of forms to fill them one by one. Once I went through the forms, I had a smile on my face. I realised, you smile only on two cases, either when you are satisfied, or when you are sad beyond reconciliation. None of the forms were in English, not even the numerals in the forms. I think my smile doesn't need an explanation now. My team mates sprang into action and they started filling out all the forms. I kept signing at various places where ever they asked me to. I had a face of helplessness, my destiny were in their hands. I spent a sleepless night. Tension crept in within me with every passing moment.

Next day, somehow I managed to start the elections on time; thanks to the various political party agents at my polling booth, they were very co-operative and in turn eased the pressure on me whereas they could have easily capitalised on my inexperience. At the end of the day , I thanked them for helping me out and then wrapped up the ballot boxes and other components along with all the forms and files. Then we moved on to the depositing area. I was shocked to see the scene there, it appeared more like a wrestling arena with people trying to dispose their ballot boxes soon and get off. I waited for my turn and after almost two hours, the ballot box and other items were taken from me and I was relieved. I thanked my team mates and then boarded the bus back to my house. I was feeling relieved and happy. On my way back, I had the rain to accompany my thoughts as I have now. I was thinking, maybe I am the first person in the history of Indian democracy who conducted an election even before casting his vote; "The PRO who never voted"

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