Today is election day. Ramabai Nagar is busier than usual, as people prepare to vote for the Maharashtra State legislative assembly elections. The neighbourhood is part of the Ghatkopar (East) constituency. Two polling booths have been assigned in the area. One of them is the Guru Nanak High School and the other is the BMC Marathi School. Officials from the State Election Commission sit outside the polling booths verifying voters’ identities and directing them to the rooms where the booths are located. They are assisted by volunteers who have set up information desks on the streets of the neighbourhood to let residents know which polling booth they should go to. Policemen have been deployed in the locality to prevent any untoward incidents. It's about 10 a.m. and you can see a bustle as people, mostly men, throng to the information desks and then making their way to the polling booths.
One man I met was an autorickshaw driver who came to work in Mumbai from a village in the northern district of Jaunpur some ten years ago. He claimed people were more enthusiastic about voting in Mumbai than they were back in the village but they faced the same problem of having to choose between politicians who said one thing and did another. Nevertheless, he firmly believed that everyone who had the vote should vote.
I walked through the narrow alleys of the neighbourhood. I noticed that many women were washing clothes outside their homes. I asked one of them whether she planned to vote at all.
Of course, I will but first I have to finish my work. The government or these election officers will not come to do this work for me, will they? Neither will my husband. We are on our own, irrespective of who is elected. After I finish washing these clothes, I have to hang them out to dry. You see we do not have space inside our homes to hang these clothes inside our houses. There are some common spaces outside where all of us dry our clothes, I have to get there before all the spaces are occupied. After that, I have to cook. Today my husband is at home [voting day is a holiday to allow people to vote] so I have to take care of him also. Only after all this is done, can I go to vote. I will go in the afternoon before polling closes.
It’s my right. It is my duty. This is the only time I feel needed by the country.
A few blocks away, I met other women who were stitching some clothes sitting at her doorstep. I asked her what her plans for the day were.
It's like any other day for us. We have to do all the household work. Most women in this area do tailoring or some embroidery work. We work from home so it is not like we are on leave today. Unlike the men, who are off duty today.
The only difference for us women is that we have to find the time and step out of the home to cast vote.
Later that evening, I was at a restaurant on the outskirts of Ramabai Nagar where I overheard men speculating about the outcomes. “BJP is in the air”, one of them was gushing about the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party which currently . “Nobody can even think of voting any other party. There is no one. BJP is doing work. No other party is. They are in power at the national level too so we can expect more development if they are voted to power in the State.”