Here come the elections and the party canvassers

Depending on the type of person ringing your doorbell, your response will have to be suitably calibrated.

In a few days’ time, the assembly elections will be upon us. We will be standing in long, serpentine queues armed with paper slips bearing our electoral roll numbers. Several political parties have called to ensure we are at the polling booths on the appointed day to cast our lot with their party. Now this is always a tricky moment. Depending on the type of person ringing your doorbell, your response will have to be suitably calibrated.

For instance, at your doorstep could be a couple of scruffy kids with bad breath, barely eligible to vote themselves, shoving these slips in your face. A bit unnerving. Conversation is largely monosyllabic. ‘Subrahmanyan?’ mouths one of the unshaven lads. I am taken aback that this boor can actually read out a name with four syllables! ‘Yes?’ I respond, the interrogation implied in my tone. ‘With an H and an N’, I add cryptically, putting him off his stride. Seeing the bemused, ‘duh’ look on his face, I tell him that if my surname is not spelt correctly, he can find another voter for his party. That's my humble tribute to my late father, who was a bit of a stickler on how his name was spelt.

Some political parties are savvy. Once again, you answer the importunate ringing of the doorbell, and this time a respectable elderly couple, probably in their early 50s, greet us benignly. ‘Good evening Sir, Madam. Sorry to bother you at this hour, but we represent the ruling party of the state, and would like to ensure you have all the proper documents to be eligible to vote’. They were so polished and well-spoken that I had to invite them in and offer a non-committal cup of tea.

One thing leads to another and before we could say, ‘And what do you propose to do about all the potholes that pockmark our roads?’ we were being given a detailed run down on the party's achievements and a lecture on Nehruvian socialism. After almost an hour that included a critical review of my CD collection and the dark pathos of the Ganesh Pyne still life that adorned our drawing room they left, confident we will do the responsible thing and vote for the right party. As they left, I vaguely assured them we will certainly vote for the right party, if not the left party!

The following day, at the crack of dawn, the doorbell rang again. I thought it must be the car cleaner cautioning me that one of the tail lights was broken and he didn’t do it. Instead, it was a strapping, saffron robed monk, his caste mark clearly emblazoned on his forehead. He smelt faintly of sandalwood and rosewater. I suspect he did weights. Given the hour, he looked bright as a button. I thought he was from ISKCON. I stared at him disbelievingly as if to say, ‘And what can I do for you at this ungodly hour?’

Smilingly beatifically, he smoothly let himself in greeting me with a ‘Jai Ram ji ki’. Quite literally, he was irresistible. ‘I will not take up much of your time. And I apologise for the untimely visit, but I have been up from 4 am’, he said in a flawless, New York accent, as if I was in some oblique way responsible for his weird nocturnal habits. ‘Some of us have come from the United States voluntarily to canvass for India’s most vibrant and important political party since Independence. Here are your voting slips, and we are sure you will cast your ballot in favour of the one party that will take us to ultimate moksha and nirvana.

Thank you for your time and pranaams to your good, lady wife. Our party pracharaks will be present at the polling booth. We have put up a tent and will be serving refreshing buttermilk and hot jalebis, if you can produce the voting slip I just gave you’. Offering me a sanctified peda he left muttering, ‘Hara, hara Mahadeva’ leaving me dumbstruck. I had harsh words with our security chaps at the gate.

Just when I thought we had had our fill of party canvassing, along comes another ominous buzz at the door. I peered through the peephole, kept the door ajar and said, ‘I am not interested in the complete Encyclopaedia Britannica, all 26 volumes in mock-leather finish, at a specially discounted price of '999/-, against the advertised price of '1401/-, an offer even Amazon cannot match’. But this well prepared, acerbic response was wasted on the befuddled young lady at the door. ‘Sorry Sir, I am not selling anything. I am an independent candidate for the coming assembly elections’.

I had a quick riposte ready. ‘Look here, I have already met all the major parties, I would suggest you don't waste any more of my time, or yours’. ‘But Sir’, she implored so pleadingly that, somewhat mollified, I had to let her in. ‘I am putting you on a timer. You have 60 seconds to say your piece and make a smart exit’. I’ll say this for her. She was not fazed by my hectoring manner.

‘Sir, you have met all the major parties, and you have been voting for them for decades. Result? More potholes and more power cuts. If you vote for me, a humble independent candidate, you will still have potholes and power cuts. But at least, you will have the grim satisfaction of voting for someone who did not make empty promises. What is more, if there is a hung verdict, my vote will become crucial. Then I will remember you, Mr. Subrahmanyan, with an H and an N’.

Smart, as well as cheeky. Not just a pretty face. Her candour was disarming. I decided I’ll vote for this independent candidate. That she was attractive is neither here nor there.

(The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket, humour and satire)

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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