Friday, November 29, 2019

The Voter Card

If there is one thing I dislike utterly, it is going through the process of getting official documents made in India. The mere thought of the red-tapism makes my blood run cold. If I can avoid it, I will. This is the reason I got my driver's license three years after I had started driving in and around the town. Yes yes, I know. I also very reluctantly got my Aadhaar card made only because I could not register my apartment without it.

In 2013, I had just returned to India after 14 years in Singapore, in the thick of the rising hindutva propaganda and the resulting polarization. It took me some time to catch up with the madness and gain some clarity about what was happening. You could say that was the reason I did not vote in 2014. But the real reason was I didn't have a voter ID. And I hadn't toughened up enough to try to get one. 

But 2019 was different. I was disgusted with what was happening in the country. I had to vote, which meant that I had to have a voter's ID. I had tried to get one, somewhat half-heartedly, in 2017 but that quest had ended after looking in vain for a school teacher who was supposed to have a form I had to fill. No teacher, no form, no voter ID!

Then one day earlier this year, I read a Facebook post by my writer-club friend Rinku about how getting her voter ID online was a breeze! Online! That's my world. That's a world I can traverse without standing in queues and going to schools to look for elusive teachers and forms! 

So I visited the website, scanned the required documents, including a fairly decent picture of mine, and uploaded them. I was quite pleased that my picture in an official document for once would be of my choice. You have to see my Aadhaar card and driver's license to know what I am talking about.

In about two weeks, I checked the website again to find that my voter ID had been approved and dispatched to the local SDM's office! Elections were just a month away and I will be able to vote! Yay! I was elated and somewhat shocked. "Technology is queen!", I thought to myself. 

The next day I went to the SDM office to collect my voter ID. After asking around random people, we located the room for voter ID collections and traversed the crowd to reach the counter. The man at the counter checked the website for confirmation, nodded at me, and then searched his messy desk and drawer. No voter ID! He checked with some other people and figured out that my card had been dispatched to a school a few kilometers away from my house. A school again! 

This time, I was given a name and phone number of the school teacher. So, I called her and she asked me to come to the school the next day. She had insisted that I must call her before reaching her school because she was going door to door to deliver the voter IDs and might not be at her desk. Unfortunately, my house was too far for this form of delivery. 

I did as asked the next day and fixed a time to meet her. She came in a little after I reached, soaking wet in the rain. She was a pleasant lady I must say, who asked me to sit while she looked up her stash of cards for one that belonged to me. But where was the stash? It was nowhere to be found. After searching for a while, she said she might have left it in the house of the last person she had gone to deliver the card. Might have?

So, off she went to the voter's house to bring the leftover cards. I waited anxiously for half hour before she returned with the packet and looked on greedily as she went through the voter cards one by one. She did this not once, but a couple of times. But my card was not there. She finally declared there must have been some mistake and the card would have to be in another school. 

By now I was at the end of my tether. Technology had not been the queen I had thought. Before leaving for another wild goose/teacher chase, I randomly picked up the set of voter cards on her table and looked through them. There it was- my voter ID with my name printed clearly! 

How had the lady missed it, not once but twice? She took my card from my hand incredulously and looked at my face and back at the card and said "This picture doesn't look like you! No wonder I missed it. This person looks so thin!"

Thank you mam for that observation! One would think you would look at the name instead of the picture. But these words were only in my mind. I was so happy to have that piece of plastic that I almost hugged her, and went back home feeling like a queen! 

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