Dear Indian voter, male or female, young or old, OBC or upper class, rural or urban, belonging to minority or majority communities,
The great big election juggernaut has been cranked up and as I write this, has begun its journey and will be heaving its way across the country over the next few weeks, gobbling up billions of dollars, attention spans, resources and media time, even as it crushes millions under its wheel and disrupts cricket matches, the syntax of sloganeers, the happy hour of dipsomaniacs and the sleep of politicians, as it does so.
Dear voter, that beast of unimaginable appetites and insatiable hungers, which every five years or so appears at our door, demanding our attention and decision is upon us, calling for ever lower standards of chicanery and deceit, inciting rage and riot, inflaming talking heads in TV studios and igniting debate and discussion at street corners and on campus corridors; the beast that staggers the world with the sheer beauty of its size and spectacle: the longest election India has ever witnessed! 543 constituencies! 81.45 crores new voters! costing almost 5 billion USD!
'Mahabharata', the papers will say. 'Highest/ lowest voter turn out', headlines will announce. 'The wheels of democracy', they will crow.
It's coming to town, to an election booth near you, bringing to the fore the hopes and dreams of millions, their spin and spiel, their ambitions and aspirations, their sweat and their blood, with all the accompanying heat and dust and noise and histrionics as it is its wont.
It is upon us and there's no going back.
Over the next few months, we will be unrecognisable even to ourselves, forgetting work and pleasure, friends and family recreation and rest as we try and breathe in the belly of the beast, trying to find some elbowroom in which to arrive at the appropriate response to the challenges it poses before us.
Politicians will deliver promises and bombast, let them; leaders will flounder and fall, forgive them, TV anchors will hyperventilate, allow them, our friends and co-workers will disappoint and confound, assuage them.
Diabolically, the beast will worm its way in to our waking hours and nightly rest; we will be exhorted to vote for the best local candidate, even as we are lectured that the country's future is at stake and what we need to consider is only the party at the center that can save it.
One day we will be talking about roads and potholes and the next, about foreign policy and India's fiscal deficit.
All of it, of course, will be germane to our choice at the appointed hour. That sacred moment when we enter the election booth, cast our eye for the last time on our choices, tick the one which least appears to militate against our idea of decency and deliverance, and proffer our finger forward for the inking.
The deed will then be done; the ballot cast, the decision irrevocable.
Will we have voted with our strength or our weakness? Our insecurity or our ideology? Our wallet or our sensibility? Our hearts or our minds? Will future generations thank us, or blame us? Will we be able to look at the young people of India in the eye and say we made the best choice available to us?
Will we emerge stronger and more empowered after our one shining moment of participation in the country's destiny?
For our sake, and that of our children, I certainly hope so!
Vote wisely! Make your vote count!
Yours sincerely etc,
Malavika Sangghvi can be contacted at malavikasangghvi @hotmail.com