Nearly 66 years of age and voted for the first time, does not it sound strange! Yes it is but in my case it is indeed true and this morning after casting my vote for Assembly elections of Punjab (India), I am indeed feeling elated as if I have achieved something great.
Ordinarily any Indian is eligible for voting after attaining age of 18 years. So why is it that I could not vote throughout my life till I am nearly 66? Well it is an interesting story. I was born in a village of Punjab (India) in 1951 and after completing my high school, I got selected for National Defence Academy (NDA) at the age of 16. After 4 years of the officer’s training, I was commissioned into the Indian Army and served for another 38 years till 2009. Though the Defense personnel can cast their vote by postal ballot it is only when you are a registered voter at a particular place. None bothered to register me at my native place whenever polling officials came and thus my name was missing from the electoral rolls. Also my parents left the village and came to the city of Amritsar where I helped them build a house. So I could have been registered voter from Amritsar but then my parents and brothers somehow missed out getting my name registered in the electoral rolls whenever some elections were held. All of my family relatives were registered voters much before than me.Thus I was kind of homeless in India though the entire India belonged to me.
In my Army service of 38 years, I was posted at various places (peace as well as field areas) 27 times, each posting averaging about 1 years and 6 months at any place. Thus I could not acquire any permanent residence worthy to vote at that place.
On my retirement I kept myself busy in providing advisory services as a second career at Delhi for a period of four years and was staying on rent. So I did not have a permanent address even then and whenever polling/election staff came to our place for revising the electoral rolls, they did not pay much heed I being a temporary resident of that place.
Finally in 2015 I decided to settle down in a place called Derabassi in Mohali district (near Chandigarh, India). It was now that I could go whole hog to get myself registered as a voter. The procedure was not very easy as I had to get proof of residence and to visit the office of election officials many times, but finally I and my wife got our voter cards just one week before the polling day for the Punjab Assembly elections.
We were thrilled to vote for the elections for the first time and I prepared myself for the same like watching you tube video on how to use the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), lest we make some mistake on the final day. Me and my wife got up early today (day of the polling), got ready and went to the polling booth as soon as the polling opened. Being senior citizen, we got our turn rather fast and cast our vote though bit nervous at the EVM. We returned home with a sense of satisfaction as if we had scaled Mount Everest and the following thoughts come to my mind.
a. I am no longer homeless and without any permanent address.
b. I have contributed to an important political process for the democracy and the nation building.
c. I can now freely talk on the subject since I have participated in the system, prior to that I was discussing politics without having put in my bid into it.
d. It is an important life time achievement which has come rather late in life.