Election musings!

Dance of democracy is on, and words after words are written, spoken, shouted on TV. People are feeling happy about the largest democracy going through its rights, luckily now every five years! All this is bliss, what more do you want in life.  People are seen debating on TV to enlighten people of what, I am not sure; in the slanging matches you can’t understand what is being said. In public meetings the leaders, the candidates are offering schemes and money. It appears that even funds available with the World Bank may not be able to provide cash to fulfil promises given to people. A billion here and a billion there does it make any difference to the speakers? But one thing is for sure, despite the politicians the nation’s do progress, things change and improve, albeit slowly. Indian growth in the last twenty years has been phenomenal.

What are the feelings in the minds of the people? For those directly involved in politics are excited and are looking forward to winning the election. Why is the win so important? It is the ticket to wealth. Barring a minuscule % of candidates, most are millionaires and billionaires. During the five years after the previous election, the wealth of many of these candidates has galloped. They never seem to work the way all of us work on a day to day basis. The assets jump beyond imagination, but it appears that all are hand in glove; no politician is ever troubled by Income Tax people.

Percentage of people voting does not change much except in a few constituencies. Why does this happen? There are so-called middle class and higher middle-class people who are too busy to vote, and there are people too poor to have time think about elections.

People, in general, look at democracy and the process of justice as if it is a wild animal; they look at it as a mirror where they want to see the reflection of their own eyes, nose and teeth. The picture is not very pretty. Probably it brings a thought in their mind that there is no alternative to the situation and they accept that they get the candidate they deserve. The feeling of desolation comes to their mind after realising that things may never change. Optimism is good, but after seven decades of Indian democracy, it is observed that things are going from bad to worse. The ugly words are used to describe opponents, calling the head of state a thief, calling a senior leader and his family as a family of marauders. My knowledge tells me that Loksabha and Rajya Sabha are the highest bodies in India. The speeches made there and allegations thrown at each other cannot be taken to the court of law. But the statements made in public are equally terrible, but the action taken by election commission is to debar these people from making speeches for a few days during the election rallies!

People go to the voting centre with a frame of mind as they go to any government office; with half the expectation that their name may not be there in the official list. They are in the least bothered if voting is done electronically or using ballot paper. On the voting day, the voter gets up tying his shoelace and hopes that his vote will improve pollution in the city. Though the initial thought that comes to his mind is, from where will he get his next meal? The ideas in the minds of the candidates are when will they be able to get a BMW or a Mercedes after this election. The candidate does not have to worry about improving the condition of the poor; their party has already declared that they will give a dole of a few thousand Rupees in the bank account of the poor. It is a collective responsibility which is conveniently considered as nobody’s responsibility.

Why is this apathy shown? Why the numbers of people voting not to go up? The first significant reason could be errors in creating voter lists. Over a period, the errors have come down, but still, that apprehension of missing names does not go away. Jaya and I have been lucky that we have taken part in each election. In the last election, my name could not be located for a long time when I went to vote. Since we have the same home address and have always been listed together, how could my name got transferred to some other list is still a mystery to me? This time also our names have been found in the list when I did online checking. What can happen at the booth is another story.  Please read my blog on the similar subject written sometime back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/my-voting-rights-were-on-hold-almost/

The second reason is that now a lot of people migrate within India. A person moving from Ahmednagar to Bhatinda does not know anything about local politics and candidates. Such people sometimes do not register themselves in the new place and don’t vote. In the days of the internet, a system can be created where people can have the option to vote at their original location. There will have to be checks and balances. But it is doable. A person’s vote should be able to travel along with the person.

This apathy of not taking part in the democratic process can lead to Brexit like situation. When the referendum was held in Britain, the young people stayed away from voting as they did not realise the meaning of the vote. When Britain voted to come out of the European Union, the young people and not so young people realised the folly of moving out of the EU. Being in the EU means to travel without a visa. There is easy access to around 25 countries in Europe for work and leisure. During our holiday travel to Europe a couple of years back, we have observed the ease with which travel is done. By stopping and checking at borders a tremendous amount of time is wasted. For those who are travelling for work, it is the waste of productive time. But now both Britain and the EU are in great turmoil as the majority in Britain want to remain within the EU. But it is not easy as there are laws and rules in an international relationship where it can not be based on whims.

There are liberals, prestitutes, bhakts. Liberals generally discuss the democracy with a glass of Chivas Regal. I am not sure if they are worried about the conditions of the downtrodden. But they support Naxalites movements and are generally anti-government. When the party in government lose an election, then they become partners with liberals. Prestitutes are “Intellectuals” and sometimes appear as if they are paid by someone to air their views. Somehow, they are anti-common view and anti-majority. There are bhakts present in every party who religiously follow whatever their  “God” will say. All these make for small but loud numbers; substantial numbers go by issues on hand, economy, development, international relations et al. But finally, it comes to a vast number of people who are swayed by money paid against each vote, as their primary need is to come out from jhuggi to at least a brick house. They don’t want the struggle of day to day living problems like power, food, water and sanitation. These are things which you and I take for granted. But will these people go and vote in large numbers if their problems are resolved? Maybe not, they will then treat the election day as a holiday like many people do and start enjoying a free holiday.

Three cheers for democracy!

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Abode- Musings about first phase of my life!

Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words but how much hidden meaning is there in this word. The life that we live is fully covered by this word. Attached to this word there are many hidden gems linked from everyones life. The abode can be a very small tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life but in ones own abode you are always the king. There are joys and sorrows, love and hate, births, deaths, birthdays, weddings, preparations studying for exams and what have you. I could probably write about my each abode, one big episode but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.

My first abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in early 50’s. It was a set of buildings and I don’t know what these clusters of buildings was called in those days. It was my first abode. That is where I made my first friend, Pradeep Gavankar. Pradeep and I are in touch with each other even today though infrequently. Pradeep has settled down at Houston in USA. Thirty years later I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure but I could see myself playing cricket (by playing I mean hanging out as I was too small to play) or playing hide and seek. I also remember going to school walking in the direction of the railway station.

As I am writing about my different abodes  many thoughts simply rumble through my mind, so many memories, new experiences and new people. We humans are hoarders of experience, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our gray cells somewhere; you only need a little input or a tinkle in some format to get it to display in your kaleidoscope.

My father was a Police Officer with transferable job. From Andheri, we went to  then small town called Ahmednagar about 250 kms from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarters. A couple of things I remember distinctly are that I had won some kind of running race in my age group and people were clapping when I received the medal, I was probably the youngest in the group! Then surprise of surprise! Some dacoits decided to make a house break and steal things from our home; diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there will be some stuff worth stealing at our home. When dacoits came in at night, I was in bed with my mother and I still distinctly remember hearing a hissing sound as if something was being pulled out. I told my mother that I heard something but luckily she thought I was dreaming and put me back to sleep. The dacoits, when they were caught, were obviously shocked to know that they had broken open a Police Officers home; they said that they had planned to kill any person who woke up during the event. Luckily my grandfather also did not wake up though he was a very light sleeper.

Then we moved to Pune for a couple of years. Pune is half way between Ahmednagar and Mumbai both distance wise and culture wise. We stayed in a rented home this time; I was in 3rd/4th grade and made some good friends whom I remembered later in life when I shifted back to Pune again 10 years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that almost all the lanes have hardly changed except some homes which have been rebuilt. Once we heard that some army tanks were going on the main road (those were really different days!) . ¾ of us were running along with tanks on the footpath. After sometimes, we were so engrossed, we did not know that we had crossed our school. We had never done that before! In those days it was almost end of town. For benefit of those from Pune/Mumbai we were running on Jangli Maharaj road and had crossed Modern High School. Today this road is one of the busiest road and right in the center of the city and not end of city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from fire in the timber market. Those days buildings were so small we could easily see the smoke at that distance! Later I came to know my father as a Police Officer had to get involved in handling many things with that fire. Two more incidents I distinctly remember from this abode. We had a remote room to ourselves on the first floor. While playing there with a friend, I had inserted a screw driver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both me and my friend. In another incident, near our home there was a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles were not so common in those days. There was a small crowd to see this and luckily the injured person was moved to the hospital but I can still visualize the mangled vehicle, my first!

We changed a few homes during my life time and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a great affinity to their native place and the home there, even after 30/40 years. I think people are made differently. When I lived in a particular home, I of course had a great affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.

From Pune again we moved to Mumbai again and for about ten years lived in Dhobi Talao area just behind Metro Cinema. What days we had in that abode! In this abode I completed my school education and joined college too! Those were my formative year in my life and what fantastic facilities and set up we were lucky to have. It started with my re meeting my friend Pradeep as we went to same school (we did not know that) and met in the bus as he had moved from Andheri to Colaba. I went through my adolescence pangs in this abode. The typical awkwardness in dealing with female species, rebellion for and against everything parents would say, craze to do everything possible and playing sports all the time, exams were just a nuisance. Near our home there were three sports grounds, Cross, Azad and Oval but for some reason our favorite was Cross Maidan. We had Brabourne stadium, where I watched a few cricket test matches, close to our home and Marine Drive promenade was also close by. We had facility to play Badminton and Table Tennis in Police Sports club. This facility allowed me to be a part of my school team which won the tournament when we were in 11th grade! During holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket and during monsoons we used play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with huge waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans there used to be Ramlila program during Dassara festival, we were allowed to go and see those religious dramas. But our main aim used to discretely watch the couples, who used the Maidan to meet for a bit of privacy! Our building was bang opposite Metro cinema on back side. We used to get excited if we were allowed a movie there. What style it had! The ushers used to wear Gray Jacket, Light brown trousers and bow tie as uniform! We used to be suitably impressed. The theatre was air conditioned and used carpets all through! Later on we became friendly with an usher Sawant. He was multitasking at Metro. Ushers had to work for a short duration during the show. In remaining time he was an artist, he used to paint the posters that were displayed at the theater. Our friendship helped us once in a while, as Sawant would allow us to watch movies on the sly via back door if there were empty seats! Eating out was considered sin in those days especially with road side vendors. Near our building, there used to be a Ragda Pattice walla but we were never allowed to eat with him. Even today I love to eat Ragda Pattice!

I know I can keep going on and on! There are so many things I can share with you but I may end up writing a book! I realized that our life is a combination of experiences that we gain. Our abode is the base that nurtures all our thoughts, helps inculcating different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes last all through our lives. You meet so many different people when you change abodes, this helps you to take the best from different people. I have become Cosmopolitan as I lived in Mumbai during the formative years. This has helped me largely in my future life. I think that will have to wait till next one!  Cheers till I talk of Elphinstone College, COEP and so on…