Yesterday, Kasumba Sheth stepped out of her posh row house in Kalyaninagar after almost six months. She wanted to cast her vote. But her circumstances are slightly dissimilar. At age 105, Kasumba finds it difficult even to walk.
Family support: Sheth family (from left) Priyal, Kasumba, Anant and Pankaj at their residence in Kalyaninagar.
But she managed to muster the strength to step out and vast her vote, helped by her son. In fact, she was eager, says her family.
Her keenness about this democratic exercise only served as an inspiration for her 20-year-old great granddaughter, Priyal, who cast her vote for the first time in her life.
Kasumba’s son Anant said, “This is a very rare coincidence. My granddaughter Priyal voted for the first time and my mother may have voted for the last time. But I am happy that all our family members participated in bringing change in the country. Let’s hope that a single party gets elected in majority so we have a stable government for the country.”
A third-year dental student, Priyal said, “While many of my friends hesitate to vote, my great granny is an inspiration. Though she is mostly immobile because of her age, she finds the energy to step outside for voting.”
With this, the Sheth family has earned the distinction of having its four generations — Kasumba (105), son Anant (76), grandson Pankaj (47) and great granddaughter Priyal (20) – casting their votes, together at the Kalyaninagar polling booth.
Initially, poll officials raised objections to Kasumba casting her vote, since she did not have an ID proof. But her grandsons Pankaj and Dhiren (42) made all the efforts they could to find her name in the voters list and generating a voter slip for her so she would be allowed inside.
After all, they did not want her to feel disenfranchised, as she had felt during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. At the time, Kasumba was exactly 100 years of age, and she had not been allowed to vote for the same reason the officials had cited this year.
“Five years back her health was quite good and she walked to the voting booth. But the election officials did not allow her to vote as she didn’t have ID proofs, like a PAN card, passport or any other ID documentation. But this time, as the Election Commission (EC) is issuing voter slips with photographs for the first time, we succeed in getting it in the morning, and she was allowed to vote,” said Anant, who is a businessman.
Other than the frailties brought on by age, Kasumba is a healthy woman. “I remember that until a couple of years back she used to watch cricket matches, making her special commentary on every shot. She used to walk in and around our home without taking anyone’s help,” her grandson Dhiren said.
The hurdles did not end here for Kasumba. Her family took her to the polling booth on a wheelchair, but with her failing eyesight, she could not tell the candidates. So they requested the authorities to allow one of the family members to accompany her to the electronic voting machine. “The election official got my father to fill up a form, with an affidavit that he would not disclose her vote. Then finally she voted,” said Pankaj.
The Sheth family is originally from Saurashtra. They moved to Pune way back in 1930. Kasumba has two sons and three daughters, and the eldest son Balvant is 80 years old. They have a factoru of automobile parts in teh city.
The politically-inclined family believe that each of them – young or old, man or woman – not only reserves the right to think for themselves and pick a candidate, but also commands respect for the choice they make inside the polling booth.
“Ours is a very liberal joint family. I still remember in 1970s, all the men of our family used to vote for what was then Jan Sangh, and the women had an affection for the Congress. We respect each other’s views.
The thing we have ensured all these years is that every voter in our family should use their fundamental right freely,” Anant said.