Voting is imperative for a democracy to thrive. Our representatives have the power to pave the path of our future either by maintaining the status quo or by making amends, which may even lead to drastic changes. I see a vote not as this nation’s empowerment, but my own.
You become an adult at 18, but it is not as good as it seems. Eighteen is just a number after all because though you begin paying the full price of a ticket like other adults, you don’t feel like one. You will be told that you are still a child, that you have a lot to learn.
No matter how hard you try, you are never good enough or you do not have enough ‘experience’. Your older sibling being preferred over you for the reason that they have learnt more might be something you have to get used to. However, one exercise that would give me the satisfaction and pride to call myself an adult is the act of voting.
We have all learnt that we get to vote from the age of 18. In school, it was something I had to memorise for exams, but I realised its value much later.
As a kid I always thought, “I represent a single vote in a huge country, what difference would it make anyway? It is a mundane exercise that my parents perform every election day”.
It is only now that I realise that that thought was superficial. It is not just a single vote but a mindset, a mindset that everyone needs to inculcate. A vote is a tool we possess, one that has the ability to chart the course of our future.
My understanding of an ideal candidate for election was first formed based on lessons in school where we were introduced to the concept of government and elections. I was always told that a good politician is somebody who works for the people. Later on, I was introduced to newspapers and all I read was about corruption, buying votes and the like.
There came a phase when I felt that all politicians are corrupt and there is no point in voting for any of them. Many people still believe that. Over time, I understood that we cannot hope to make a utopian society out of an imperfect world. This, apart from the fact that whatever the rumour mill spews out is not always true.
For quite a while, I never really understood what I heard on the news with respect to elections. There were opinion polls, exit polls, alliances and other terminology that seemed like a foreign language to me. Most of my ‘views’ on politics were formed while sitting around my father and his friends and listening to their discussion. It always went over my head but I managed to memorise all they said. I would save it all and blurt it out in front of my friends, hoping to impress them.
Fast-forward a few years and I am now studying in a law school. It is not uncommon to have discussions on politics here. I have had the opportunity to mingle with students who have a better understanding of political theory. Listening to them and their take on issues fascinates me. I do try to stay ahead and keep abreast of current affairs but the outlook of some of my peers never ceases to amaze me.
The inspiration to write this article arose quite recently. I was in Mysore in May on election day in Karnataka. I had not applied for a Voter ID card yet, because of which I could only watch as all my friends cast their vote. We had our house-warming ceremony that day and all the guests made it clear that they would come home only after voting.
At that moment, I was hit by a wave of regret for not capitalising on my opportunity. Since this was the first time I was of the age to vote, it hit me that I had missed a golden opportunity. However, it was not remorse for not contributing to the formation of our government, it was something else, something from deep within. Maybe it had something to do with growing up with an older sibling, when you are pushed into his shadow and this makes you feel like you want to be heard.
The realisation that I would never be treated the same as my elder brother gave me a strong desire to be heard and seen as an individual, and at that moment, at home, on election day, I realised that I had a chance but I had let it slip through my fingers. Now, here I am, a few months later, lying in wait for the next opportunity to be heard.