Saturday, December 8, 2018

Polling Duty (Story)--Murthy KVVS

Notification of forthcoming election schedule in today's paper brought the bygone days back for me.It is about almost a decade passed by.But those moments are fresh in my mind.EVMs were something impossible to imagine in those days.I was drafted as a presiding officer to execute in a polling booth that situated in a remote village.There were four more employees in my team and they were from different departments.

It was almost five in the evening as our vehicle reached the village.The vehicle provided by election commission has gone back with remaining staff to their respective places.Our team members comprised of different age groups.We five people boarded in the school along with the polling material.The very next day is polling day.We started pre- arrangements soon after having a little rest.

We have surveyed the rooms and premises of the school to make a plan for various requirements like makeshift way for voters to come in and exit.And to prepare a corner to keep the ballot box on a table,with covering by a blanket for secrecy.Everything to be intact.Somehow,we have completed all the work including filling up required papers by seven O' clock in the night.Tomorrow is going to be the De day.By 7 a.m. sharp, the juggernaut of polling process will be commenced.Voters will be queuing up for exercising their franchise.

As have said,our team is of a high-octane five members including me.The duty like this can only be succeeded with team spirit and every one has to do their part to make it fruitful.The same thing has been uttered by me repeatedly.Fortunately our team members were much cooperative.

It was almost eight O clock in the night as we have returned to our worldly business from our conversation of  many other things.I went out to meet some villagers or find a small hotel to prepare meals for us.It was a moonlit night.Village looked so calm,no one was on the street.Dim lighting of bulbs kept pouring from the street electricity poles.Both sides, unruly bushes were growing.At last,I found a villager after walking a few yards to the corner.

"We are the polling staff deputed here in your village to accomplish the election process.It seems no body is out there to ask something about.." I  introduced myself to the man.He was grim and thoughtful for a while.

"Here people used to go to bed by seven or seven thirty in the night.There was no hotel or any accommodation  for the meals.You have to help yourself only" He answered in a businesslike tone.

"My God...what to do,is there any hotel nearby the village..?"

"Yes...but it is about 20 k.m.s' away.All the way is filled with wild animals apart from being stark dark.."He informed me and rushed himself without heeding my further talk.I sighed for our fate.Came back  to the school-cum-polling booth.On disclosing the fact,our second team member came up with a sweet news.

"Sir...don't worry.I have brought some fruits and biscuits with me.Let's have it.Of course,it can't be like a meal in any sense.." He appeared like a messiah. All our members were happier to have something instead of going hungry all the night.Each member got two bananas and  two biscuits.Wow..What a great treat for our tummies.There was a tube well in the school premises to provide gallons of water.No problem,we can endure the starvation of some more days.We became more confident after having the water up to our throats.

We spread our blankets on the floor and rested our bodies cozily.Through the doors wide opened,Sky was looking like the old friend with starry lighting.Eerie silence everywhere.All of a sudden,somewhere a feeble howling like sound came from a distant place.That should be a fox for sure,howling from an half emptied belly like us..? or from an orgasm of night cap..? Our pals were sleeping fast.Good God ...you made me to capture nature's pulchritude.

In the early morning, all of us completed face washing and bathing etc.,polling agents keep coming one by one.As a presiding officer,I have to provide them I.D.cards and at the same time have to check their credentials.Mock polling,paper sealing and other formalities have been done in their presence.All those were performed in time.We made them sit down on the benches allotted for them.

Voters were waiting in queues and I nodded to the security person to send them in.Security personnel have joined us this morning though they have had to report the previous day.However,this is not the time for indulging in arguments.It would hamper all the polling process.One by one,voters got rolling in.Our team members sat in a row with eager to do their respective jobs such as verifying electors,putting tick mark in the electoral roll and indelible ink mark on fingers so on.

Work was going on smoothly.And our staff also immersed in the process.By the ten in the morning,almost 50 voters came and exercised their right.Now flow is slow.Meanwhile,a polling agent asked me about the details of breakfast whether we have had.I told him that entire story of the last night and asked him to send any person to get it on payment.Our staff were having water for every now and then to keep them energetic.But their faces showing their real plight.

The polling agent nodded for my request but no firm answer came from him.I determined not to tell him again.Come whatever.We were ready to face it.I too gulped some water again.There was no dearth of water as we have a tube well in the polling booth.Certainly we will never die.But a huge wave of weakness was trying to defeat our spirit.We were determined to face it whatsoever.

And another spell of voters came into the booth.It was a heavy rush.in other words.We became busy and no time to think about our hunger now.Water bottles were aplenty at our side and consuming water like frogs.Almost four villages around this one fall into our list.So the voters turnout seemed big.It was around 2 o'clock and the agents were ready to go out.Their substitutes would come later.They promised us to send tiffin or meals from the nearby village.They left.And their substitutes attended with empty hands.No tiffin or meals were being sent by these new agents.

Everyone of us became mute and understood the situation.We consumed water abundantly.No expectations from anybody else.This day is the real eye opener.We have paid for what we have done.We should have brought some more food like breads,chapatis and fruits.Every village is unique in our country.Some could cooperate us and some couldn't.No right to blame anyone.That's how people behave,no humanity no bull shit.

At last we have completed our poll work.It was 5 O'clock in the evening.All our team members and I sighed with a note of satisfaction.All post poll work furnished and agents have also left.Everyone of us felt like a soldier , won a hard battle.We were talking less due to weakness but were raising in our spirits.After two hours spent in leisure,our bus came to the polling station.

I requested the driver to stop at the nearest hotel or at least at the small grocery outlet to eat something available there.The bus was heading through the wild forest and we all closed our eyes as the cool breeze moving over our faces.--Murthy K.V.V.S.

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