If any further proof was needed of India’s diversity, it came on Saturday. In Delhi, my journalist friends sat glued to TV and Twitter, determined not to miss a single moment of the vote counting. I entered my office to hear the canteen manager interpreting Modi’s victory in Uttar Pradesh as “crucial for the country” to the guard who, incidentally, reads Competition Success in his free time. At lunch at India International Centre, the older lot—many with pinched faces—discussed the polls. In the background, the pundits talked.
Pundit 1: As I predicted, Modi has done it. He’s here till 2024, easily.
Wide-eyed niece: But Chachu, last week you said Akhilesh would win. That even Benaras was not going to vote for Modi.
Pundit 1: When did I say that? Don’t make up stories.
Insistent niece: After your trip to UP last fortnight.
Pundit 2: Don’t embarrass your uncle, beta. He always gets it wrong. I knew from the beginning that Amit Shah would pull it off. His demonetisation move was sheer genius.
Embarrassingly-honest niece: Now you’re lying, uncle. You hate notebandi, and say it hasn’t achieved anything....
The evening took me to a party (of the non-political kind) in South Delhi. The Modi fans did a few high-fives but stopped once the more serious conversation about the long weekend got underway. Half the group had apparently already left for Goa; this lot was flying out on Sunday. Talking of Goa, had any of them given AAP a chance there at all? “Arre, stop with the elections. Who cares who wins in Goa, as long as the winner doesn’t do something crazy like impose prohibition,” said Partyman 1. “They would never risk that. Too many of us from Delhi and Mumbai have big properties there,” responded Pompous Partyman 2. I opened my mouth to question the logic when a friend butted in with “Never mind,” and pulled me out of the room.
Quite confused by now about people’s priorities, I called my family in Kolkata. Bongs love politics, I told myself. They must be interested in the elections. My elderly uncle answered and immediately started barking questions about EVMs and whether they were actually faulty. Thrilled by his interest, I began to hold forth when my aunt grabbed the phone and began complaining about how warm Kolkata had become, and how her plants were suffering. I tried to steer the conversation back to the polls when she told me I’d become “another Mamata” and abruptly disconnected.
Not yet ready to give up, my next call was to an aunt-in-law in Thiruvananthapuram. She picked up the phone with “It’s crazy out here.” “I can imagine,” I said, and was going to launch into my analysis of the poll results, when she added: “How sweet of you to remember and call to wish me.” Er, remember what? I knew it wasn’t her birthday so I ran to Google ‘Kerala events’. Aah. “Happy Attukal Pongala, if that’s the right way to say it,” I said. “Did you also cook prasad,” I asked as I saw online pictures of women doing just that. “Actually, I..,” she began to explain. I kicked off my shoes and sat down to listen. Maybe the aunts know best. Maybe it’s better to stay with plants and prasad, and leave the polls to the political pundits...