As Arvind Kejriwal thunders on about the ills of all things that are not Aam Aadmi, sub-inspector Kapil Rana leans back on a motorcycle in the surrounding grassless field of the Atal Chowk Ramlila Grounds in Vasundhara, Ghaziabad. "It's been horrible, these elections. And Ghaziabad is a terrible place," he tells me as if sharing his sorrows is therapeutic.
Posted to Ghaziabad from his hometown of Haridwar, the 27-year-old complains about how he's been able to have a proper meal after four days. "My mother asked me today whether I remember that she exists. The problem of being a policeman in UP is that one day you're shunted to this place, and another day, elsewhere. And I kept this," he says pointing to his abridged handlebar moustache, "to get some respect." Saying which he takes out his smartphone to show me his photo in which he looks even more dapper than he is with a clean-shaven face. He's actually smiling in the photo.
Earlier on, when Manish Sisodia was telling the gathered crowds here about corruption, another angst-ridden sub-inspector was holding forth on the need for a change in the system. "It's good if someone can get rid of corruption," Ravinder Yadav was telling his juniors listening to their boss. "I actually lit a candle for Anna Hazare while on duty during the anti-corruption rally in Delhi. But for corruption to be wiped out, people need to be paid properly. A policeman won't need bribes if he gets a decent salary. He needs to send his children to school, pay his rent." He even cites the example of Scotland where, according to him, every policeman irrespective of rank gets the same pay. "Only the perks differ. Why can't they have that here?" he says, sounding like he's rationalising corruption.
Almost everyone in the crowd with their 'Mein hoon aam aadmi' cap look suspiciously like people out for a Sunday evening walk. Dudes in T-shirts with 'I am what I am', 'Pick me' and 'Desist. Bestow the power' written on them are hanging out with unclejis and auntiejis and granddads. And yet, they look very incongruous in this patch pretending to be a maidan. This is not the Ghaziabad you see on either side of the National Highway 24 that connects Delhi to Lucknow and is lined with billboards ranging from 'Windpark: A Land Full of Promises. Book Your Flat Now!' to Narendra Modi staring down to tell us, 'Achhe din aaney wala hai' (Good times are coming).
Karim sits with his stock of fish to sell at a barely-lit stretch in Vasundhara. As I ask him for directions well into the evening, he directs me with a finger, "Go towards the lights." That is the way towards Indirapuram, the Ghaziabad that doesn't look like Vasundhara. At the rally, when AAP Lok Sabha candidate Shazia Ilmi high-octaves about the step-motherly treatment received by Ghaziabad under the 'absconding' Rajnath Singh. The crowd flutter their AAP flags and applaud while two young men urinate, one into the bushes inside the maidan and another against the field's perimeter wall.
Before the AAP leaders had come on stage, a guitars'n'drums band performed Ghaziabad Grunge -- a distort-fuelled rocker version of 'Raghupati Raghava' and an angry cover of AR Rahman's rendition of 'Vande Mataram'. After their gig, I meet the members of Vidhan the Band. One of the guitarists wearing a Kurt Cobain T-shirt explains why they 'opened' at an AAP election rally. "Because sir, who is our teacher and AAP member, wanted us to do our bit in this rally." 'Sir' aka Kush Sirohi, who has worked with the band Indian Ocean, tells me, "We could have played at a BJP or a Congress rally. But we don't give a shit about them," he tells me chugging on his cigarette. It turns out that these pioneers of Ghaziabad Grunge work as trainers at the Dynamic Dance Institute where they teach karate and salsa. It seems that despite what interior Ghaziabad looks like, at least the people here want to keep in shape.
And also work. A man at the rally is wearing a badge on his shirt that reads, 'Work from home. Ask me how.' So, naturally, I ask him. He doesn't say a word but fishes out a piece of paper from his trousers pocket. 'Work from home opportunity,' it says providing incentives to five kinds of Ghaziabadis: student ('Pocket money'), housewife ('Earn more than your husband'), unemployed ('Be your own boss'), employed, ('Earn more'), retired ('Be independent'). Four days before Ghaziabad goes to polls, this man, Abhay, has the most sound manifesto of them all.
Indrajit Hazra is a Delhi-based writer and journalist.