Metrolife: When I turned 21 and went to vote

Metrolife: When I turned 21 and went to vote

I was 21 by the time I cast my vote for the first time. I remember telling my classmates that it was my first time and had them giving me disapproving looks.     

I also remember many of them not voting that year because examinations were going on. Like most people, I didn’t think ‘how does it matter if we vote or not?’. The roads weren’t great then and Bangalore wasn’t as hot as now but there was another pressing problem. There used to be powercuts from 10 am to 1 pm or from 10 pm to 1 am, which is when most students sat down to study. 

Things changed drastically for me when I went to the US for my further studies. 

Indians are so careful offshore but they rarely do it in their own country. It was amusing to see that Indians would follow all the rules there; they were following the rules better than Americans. At a signal, they would stop at the amber light instead of the red light. If they feared unavailability of a parking spot somewhere, they would happily use the public transport but here even if one struggles with parking spots and there are public commutation options available, people are on the roads with their vehicles.

Seeing all this amused me a lot. I also found individuals abroad who spoke in detail about how they would vote if they were in their own country and the whole responsibility factor. When I pulled them to one side and asked them if they have actually ever voted, they would squirm and say ‘No’. 

I slowly started getting more politically aware. After a year, when I came back to India, I had to get my Pan Card made. I used that as my ID during voting as my license was tattered beyond recognition. The voting booth was at a school in Sanjaynagar and I remember my father and brother getting excited and leaving in a rush, thinking they would have to stand in a long line. The turnout was really less though and we were out in three minutes. 

Later, when I was working on ‘Humble Polticiann Nograj’, I interviewed a lot of people. This is when I realised that many of them don’t vote. There were people who were complaining about how they faced varied problems. My immediate question was, “Are you aware which party is in power now?” Many named the opposition or a wrong party and one even went on to claim that the party in power had been ruling for three continuous terms. It was funny yet upsetting to know that citizens were clueless about such basic details.  

Even a recent campaign that I conducted to create awareness, saw seven out of 10 people mentioning the wrong party in power.   

Then there are people who are voting as South Indians and as North Indians. Many do not realise that a change in a city or state means a positive step towards a better nation and this divide will take us nowhere. Some even go on to ask “What do we get in return?” This is a serious question -- when politicians are doing things and getting so much in return (no pun intended!), why not us? True!

During the shoot of ‘Humble...’ there were people who were ready to come as extras and stand in the sun for an entire day. But when we asked them if they were ready to do volunteer work to improve the city, they sheepishly smiled. I said ‘just kidding’ and moved forward.   

I cannot awaken the political consciousness in people. In spiritual awakening, people feel that they gain something but the whole idea of not gaining anything from political awakening is disturbing. This basic thought process needs to change. 

May 12 is the day. Exercise your right to vote and see the change for yourself.

(As told to Tini Sara Anien)