Sumia is an old lady of cheerful disposition. Her love for independence is rather overmuch. No wonder she has chosen to continue working at her old age of sixty rather than staying with her son and daughter-in-law. She doesn’t like to make compromises on every issue and fight with her daughter-in-law every now and then. She continues to maintain excellent health and works with sincerity.
And she works as the maidservant in a well-to-to household where she is loved for her simplicity and respected for her age.
In her sixty years of life she has not achieved many things but she does not gripe about that. One such thing is about her travel—say, until recently, she has had no experience of riding the wonder vehicle called a car, not at all. It was a luxury, denied to her so far.
Only the other day she got an opportunity to end her privation of car-lessness.
Everything happened a fortnight ago, during the last elections to local bodies. It was a gala incident in the rural area. Somehow elections these days have become more interesting, more expensive and certainly uncertain. Gone were the days—and everything about that is in our living memory—when there were no takers for the posts; there were many cases of elections concluded with lone members getting elected uncontested. Such was the popularity of local bodies!
This time when election was notified, it jerked all the sleeping politicians at the grass root into action. Power of persuasion was now put on test. There were cajoling from the contestants—a bit higher in intensity this time than it used to be the case on the previous elections. Everybody who has the eligibility to vote was cajoled...even the poor old soul called Sumia.
On the day of the election, a car came to Sumia. She got into it and the engine revved. Sumia was happy. Cool breeze came into the cab through its open windows, ruffled her gray hair, billowed her sari, and stroked her skin. It was such a feeling to enjoy the breeze! It was all fresh. The car sped through the village road.
Looking through the window was quite an experience for her. What a scene? Even trees were running past the car and all going back and back. Sumia could not believe her own eyes.
It was a journey of twenty minutes only. The booth was not quite far from Sumia’s place. As soon as she got down she was served tea, the real hot tea with thick dairy whitener in it. It was creamy and Sumia liked it. Standing in queue to vote would not be tiring now.
Then she went inside the booth, voted and came out. Now was the time to go home. But this time there was no car to take her back home. She came back walking, slowly ruminating the wonderful experience of her first car ride. Now she was aware what it meant getting into a cab and what it felt sitting on the cushion of a seat.
‘Who did you vote for, Sumia?’ asked the lady of the house where Sumia worked.
‘I voted for the “snake”, maa’m,’ Sumia replied. She did not know the name of the contestant who actually had the symbol "snake", but she knew it was he who had arranged a car for her to take her to the booth, one way.
‘But you were supposed to vote for the “dagger”, isn’t it? Hasn’t he given you a peace of sari?’ the lady of the house teased.
‘I’ve also given a vote to him. In fact I’ve impressed the rubber stamp on both the symbols of the ballot paper.’
Sumia paused a while and then asked a question to her friendly employer.
‘Maa’m, will there be an election next year too?’
A. N. Nanda
Labels: short story