It is like Moulin Rouge in the streets. Unlike the US, elections in India are a combination of dance, drama, pantomime, jugglery, and the acrobatic skills of purveyors of false hope. You will hear of the new voices raging like matadors towards bulls, but the red rag is often a cloth of blood. Or a clot. If this is pessimism it is internalised by the very karmic feed from the environment.
But that does not matter. We care little about who is in power and more for getting them there. The pre-ballot ballets are what make it so very interesting. You might find a cow with slogans scrawled on its body or an elephant with posters stuck on it; loudspeakers in open jeeps belt out patriotic songs to Bollywood tunes and film dialogues pass off as socially-relevant messages; election symbols can make you chuckle – would you vote for an independent candidate who thinks a balloon represents her/him? Flowers, birds, animals, vehicles, body parts are on display as party symbols.
Promises are made for rose gardens…yes, they do promise you a rose garden…in a country where people need a place to defecate, where women squat near drains with umbrellas hiding their faces to cover their shame as they extricate remnants of malnourished meals and contaminated water.
Promises are made for big industries where the fumes would help burn the fires in homes with stone cold floors and cook grains with insects crawling in them. These people will be taken in trucks to vote, with bait of a little money or a little ride. The rich will celebrate in fancy bars and watch exit polls as they drink their gin and tonic. The glossies will flash pictures of them showing us their inked index finger, the nail varnish a bright fuchsia.
Gods are brought out in the streets – every faith is pandered to, no god should be unhappy. The people? They are god’s slaves. They are the slaves of leaders. They are the slaves of helplessness. They are we and we are they and we know the difference so well. That is why someone sits on a high chair and gives speeches about the horrible state of affairs. These people get elected and stay behind barricaded walls, eat beneath the light of chandeliers as large as ceilings and from crockery with gold rim, and drink off glasses so fragile that when they break they make no noise.
This is not the only silence you will hear. The silence of people with no voices but feet that can be dragged to the booths to put their stamp on someone’s name, never their own. The faceless ones who live for those days when life is a cabaret.
(c) Farzana Versey