I had always been one of those good girls — serious, studious, mild-mannered, compliant and obedient. There had been no trace of politics in my lineage either from the paternal or maternal side. Yet when some friends suggested that I run for the post of executive member of our small association, I willingly gave in. Perhaps it was the dissatisfaction with the system, the current fad of civil movements or my arrogance that I have the potential to contribute which goaded me to take the plunge.
As I filled the nomination papers and the date of withdrawal crossed by, I found myself face to face with the challenge I had naively taken up. The drill began with rigorous campaigning in the hot and humid August days. Sweat lent a glorious glow to our faces and thirst and exhaustion became our constant companions. Disappointments like lugging up four-storey stairs to reach our voters only to find that most of them were on leave were routine. To add to it, the campaign of the opposition was highly aggressive and we had to constantly improvise new strategies to out-manoeuvre them. It was a match of wits to convince the community to vote in our favour and disregard the tall claims of the opposition. It needed a lot of planning. There were oblique comments of well-wishers who advised me to stay away from politics, saying that it’s not proper for women from respectable families to be in this dirty business. Others sniggered and said, “We thought you were academically oriented”, while still others labelled me dangerously ambitious.
On polling day, I was cornered by many a disgruntled voter who complained that I had not begged for their votes. “Vote mangne hi nahin aaye?”I heard patiently. Winning was a pleasant surprise - a sort of validation — that there are people on this planet who trust you. It was humbling and frightening at the same time, taking into account the expectations and wondering if I’d be good enough.
The year moved on with meetings, debates, discussions, fights, arguments, rumours, dissents and sabotages. We raced against time to do something substantial as we had only one year. Many a time we clinched issues, while at others we failed to move the juggernaut of a system even by an inch. It was exciting and frustrating. Whatever it was, the tenure was definitely not a cakewalk, rather it involved hard work, intense thinking and passionate advocacy and a lot of learning. The learning was the appreciation of diversity and dissent, of multiple but equally valid perspectives on one issue and of the huge potential of team work. From this vantage point, I’d like to suggest that politics should be made compulsory for each citizen. If you want your child to be a thinking being, get her into dirty politics and she will come out cleaner, healthier and a better human being!