On seeing the title, if you think that this post is in the likes of Big Ben of London, Sorry! This is not about any Clock tower. This post is about Hiraben.
I will first clarify your doubt which is sprouting in your mind;-).
In Gujarat, all ladies are addressed with a suffix Ben, for e.g., padmaben, prasannaben etc.In short, any lady is addressed as ladyben. OK?
Before proceeding I would like to introduce 2 main characters of my post.
1. Hiraben-Servant maid of our neighbor in Ahmedabad.
2. Buriben-My Servant maid in Ahmedabad.(Age 26)
Hiraben was around 75 years old with minimum number of teeth, tall but slightly bent figure, and her ghagra choli reflecting the rustic look of rural Rajasthan. During my 6 years stay in Ahmedabad, I never understood a single word of hers. But we were cordial with each other exchanging lovely smiles and she used to help me when Buriben went on leave with silly excuses;). Now enough of Hiraben’s description .I will start with the main story.
It was the usual scorching summer of Ahmedabad in the year 2003.Last loksabha elections were held during May month. As usual I tried to educate Buriben with electoral process of our country and explained to her why voting is important. She also participated in the discussions with lots of interest and gave some unique suggestions (!!!), had tea with me and escaped with minimum chores;-) Buriben was a good outlet for me in Ahmedabad .I love talking to somebody or other in spite of linguistic barriers. ;-)
Our language of communication was a mixture of Hindi, Gujarati and sometimes Marathi and Tamil when I lost patience with her;) .But communication with her was far better than hiraben.
Everyday she used to narrate to me how different party people came to their locality and showered gifts on them .Three days before election, one major party had distributed plastic buckets in their locality. I advised her to accept all the gifts from parties because after elections no one will be bothered to give anything to them .But I warned her not to get attracted by these silly gifts and again gave her complete gyan of effect of sincere voting and asked her to stick to her conscience while voting in spite of accepting gifts.
On the Election Day, before Rajendra left to office we went to cast our votes and I returned home. Aditya was very small to share my excitement. But Buriben fuelled my excitement with hot news. Previous night at 2 am, opposition party men had distributed steel tapelis (vessel in Gujarati) in their locality.
Immediately I gave her a warning look. She immediately understood and said that she is going to vote according to her conscience and will not be lured by gifts. Good! I appreciated her. “What about Hiraben?” I asked her with curiosity.
“Arre! Hiraben is not going to vote this time!”
I was shocked. My passion for democracy :-) was too high to accept this.
“But Why?” I asked her. ”Bring Hiraben here” I ordered Buriben.
As usual Hiraben came flashing her teethless innocent smile .
“Are you not voting this time?” I asked Hiraben.
Our interpreter Buri did a good job on that day.
“No! I don’t want to vote! How can I cheat?”Hiraben quipped.
“What cheating? Whom you are going to cheat”
She replied”Three days back I had decided to vote for that plastic bucket party. But yesterday night the opposition party people gave us tapelis. Now whom should I vote for? If I vote for one party it is like cheating the other party. I have received gifts from both of them .See! I am poor! I cannot refuse these gifts. But I have to be sincere and honest too. Those party people have warned us that they have spies in polling booth and will get back the articles from us if we do the cross voting.”
Again I had a tough time in explaining her secrecy of voting process and not to bother about those party men and better stick to her conscience. She was not convinced.
Whole day I was after her and was showing the black dot in my forefinger and at last started pleading;-) with her to go and vote. She started taking pity on me and decided to vote. I asked Buriben (My spy ;-)) to accompany her to polling booth and immediately rushed to our neighbour’s balcony from where I could have a better view of polling Booth's gate to confirm that both of them entered the polling booth which was in our adjacent compound. I gave a huge sigh of relief ,ignored my neighbour’s quizzical look;-) came back home.
On hearing the calling bell, I opened the door to see the victorious duo showing the black dots on their respective fore fingers .I flashed a thankful smile and made them to sit ,switched on the Fan,and rushed to prepare a cool lemon drink for them. I added more sugar in their glasses as an act of Thanksgiving . Hiraben gave a typical smile and enjoyed the cool drink on that sunny day.
“So, finally did you vote with your conscience or was your decision based on the gifts? Bucket party or tapeli party?” I asked both of them.
Before Buriben gave her answer , Hiraben was quick in replying me. ”Let both the parties go to hell. I voted for some independent candidate. I don’t know his name ;-)
Whoever comes to power there will not be any progress in our lives.so what big difference it is going to make. Any way thanks for your sharbat. It was nice.”
Her knowledge in Indian politics made her appear like a great psephologist;-) to me ,but anyway wondering the luck of that independent candidate who got a vote because of my pestering, I bid adieu to them and switched on TV for the latest Breaking News on Elections ;-).
CU in next post!