Varun Khanna, aged 18, stood in the serpentine queue. His first adult franchise. Mumbai had turned out in decent numbers, he felt. Obviously lower than the national average, but that was the typical Bambaiya attitude, armchair in their views, apathetic in their voting. Still he was excited with the buzz, awed about being a part of the ‘big change’ Lok Sabha poll. His hard-working ‘bai’, Minu, had said good humouredly, “Sab mantri ek hi hai, election ke pehle hazaaron vachan dete hai, par election ke baad, kuch nahin”.
He considered his options — Three gladiators in the ring — the ruling party, much talk of them having messed up for two terms, massive charges of corruption, though he wasn’t quite sure whether they were trumped up or just twitter nonsense. Secondly there was the opposition party — true contenders this time, though from the huge ad expenditure they weren’t really promoting themselves as a party anymore, just one guy with a 52-inch chest proclaiming, ‘ab ki bar, I’m your dude.’ Even though a sizeable chunk of the motherland was scared of him, it very much looked like he was the man. And thirdly there were the rank outsiders, the dark horses, the game changers, the guys with the brooms, who wanted to clean up the mess created by the other two. He liked their funky white caps. His favourite vocalist, from Pentaram had joined the party, so they must be cool. Such a colourful array of candidates across the country, he thought — Wily old foxes, scamsters, criminals, Bollywood stars, TV serial rejects, Muslim baiters, tantrum throwing has-beens, Dalits, venomous hate mongers, politicians’ wives, music composers, and Rakhi Sawant.
He wasn’t sure who to vote for. Meaning, did you opt for the political party, or for the particular candidate from your constituency? Plus he was confused between MLA and MP — which of them was responsible for solving the day-to-day nuisances Mumbaikars had to endure — the ditch lying outside his Dadar building, for example, had been unattended to. Dug up, apparently to lay telephone cables. Three years later, still no cables, only a ditch.
He made the top of the queue, finally.
The sour-faced lady official checked her register. His name wasn't listed.
“Name deleted”, she informed him.
And so he went searching for his name. Four polling booths later, he was still non-existent. Then he remembered — he’d read on Facebook that there was a separate ASD register — the list of people who were absent, had shifted residence or were deceased.
He checked the ASD register. Voila, he found his name and address.
He was deceased. Under the name of ‘Varma Khandvi.’
“So can I vote as a dead person?,” he asked the humourless official. “Yes, you are this person Varma Khandvi who resides in this address, na?”
So Varun Khanna, aka Varma Khandvi, dead man walking, cast his vote.
And walked out of the polling booth, feeling quite alive.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.