Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stop, Children, What's that Sound?

Do you hear that?

No, not the buzzing saw from the construction site.
No, no- not the train in the distance.
Nope not the auto rickshaw putt-putting down the road, nor any of the honking cars.

Don't you hear? The loudspeaker?
What is it saying? No clue, still haven't learned Kannada.

So, I think just about everyone in the world is aware that this year will see a presidential election in the United States. Can't miss it. But did you know that it is election season in Bangalore? Yup. If you live here you can't miss it either. There are the processional trucks with the loudspeakers, the gatherings of white clad politicians and supporters that meander in large groups around neighborhoods or just loiter on corners, sidewalks or streets. There are the occasional tents that have sprung up, which may or may not be used for serving lavish feasts in an effort to woo voters. (It's illegal, but they are there and I have heard that it happens.)

It wasn't long ago when Bangalore received a visit from the young, the dashing, Rahul Gandhi.
Despite his seeming discomfort with it, he is India's political poster boy in a Tiger Beat kind of way, being the heir apparent to the Gandhi political dynasty and head of the Indian Youth Congress. His visit was accompanied by large banners, posters, flags and lots of traffic tie-ups.

It can appear that Sonia Gandhi's Indian National Congress party (INC) is in an election battle with The Bharatiya Janata (BJP) and the other major player in Karnataka politics, Janata Dal Secular (JDS) but truth be told- I really have no clue! Election day is on the 10th of May, and while I will state again that I in NO WAY have any in depth understanding of Indian politics, I do think that this is a pretty big election. Since October, the government of Karnataka (the state that Bangalore is in) has been governed by "President's Rule". I believe that this was an effort to cool things down after there had been some political turmoil between BJP and JDS and disagreements about the coalition government that they were supposed to be running.

Don't ask me what the different parties represent, stand for, or any of that. Again, I have no clue. I did see one ad in the newspaper that had been taken out by BJP that listed all of the woes that are affecting India (and the rest of the world) at present such as higher prices for food stuffs, grains, petrol and gas, and implied that the Congress party was to blame since they have been in power for such a long time here. It is surely a simplistic explanation, although I know that this sort of thing happens in politics all over the world. Of course, luckily for Indian politicians, Bush has stuck his foot in his mouth again and they think that the US is now blaming India for higher food prices world wide. So nice to have a diversion.

Political campaigners parading and handing out leaflets

It is interesting to see all that is going on here though and yet also feel a bit isolated from all of the politicking in the US. Yes, we hear about it in the news, but it is always the after-effect, the reporting of the event that we hear about. We are not able to participate in such an intimate way. So I am trying to at least understand the process here. It does seem that people are passionate about voting and elections in Bangalore. Lalitha, my housekeeper came late the other day so that she could get her voter ID card and she reported that there was a huge line and crowd with people jumping line and the police had to come to control the crowd. When did you last hear about that happening in the US?

Campaigners and candidates

Well, I just hope for a peaceful election. No strikes, no riots, no trouble. But maybe the US could take a lesson from Indians and at least DO something if things don't turn out the way they should. It would be nice if we were able to actually elect our next president. For real this time.

In the meantime, I am just hoping that the local politicians will address the trouble with sidewalks.


Maya said...

It's interesting when you're in a foreign country, and something like elections makes you realize how little you really get what's going on. I remember that same feeling - I'd think I had a pretty good handle on things when I was traveling, but would sometimes realize just how superficial my understanding was...

And will it be just as interesting trying to vote in the US elections, long distance? I can't imagine what the paperwork on THAT will be like!

And finally... sidewalks shmidewalks! If the good lord had meant you to walk, he wouldn't have given you a car and driver! Hah! ;-)

CrocheterFrmCA said...

What a lovely adventure! I really liked the way you write. Interesting and funny.

Lynne said...

Rahul Gandhi reminds me of Colin Firth! Rawr!