I still don’t know why I have to do this. It’s killing me inside. I am sick in my head, and it hurts. I would like to believe that I am not scared. But that single thing evades me like quicksand in your fists. The more I try to reassure myself, the more I lose it. I think I have to get back home before anything .And I have to do that silently, so no one notices. I would rather sneak out of the back door. Lest they catch hold of me.
Oh! Wait! Let me grab that doomed thing in my hands. And the keys to my Car?? HELL!! Where are they? Why on earth did they choose me! This! Here they are! My keys. No one’s watching. I have to make my way out of this place. I don’t want to see that wretched Srivastav anymore. I think he knows I have this condition. I always knew something was wrong here. Ever since I have arrived, things are going haywire. I had never lost a wallet in the 48 years that I am alive and I lost it the first day here! All the money that I fed into them to avoid it has gone to nothing but waste. And now this! Only GOD knows what lies inside this hell sent envelope!! I want to throw it out of the rear window. Drive the fastest that I possibly can, and get out of reach. But I am scared of that too, I know it would find its way again, as it did today.
I don’t want to open it, but I’ll have to.There’s nothing that I can do now. I would have to do what’s required of me. But GOD knows I cant help falling sick. I know I have to do it just once, just this first time, cz I’ll never be seen alive again. Yes. In all probability. I’ll be killed.
I flip the envelope open .
BHARATIYA NIRVACHAN AAYOG
ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA
The white sheet inside tells me I am one of the several Micro-Observers chosen for this year’s Lok Sabha Elections. To hell with it! What good would I do to it? Except getting myself murdered by some crazy extremist! And what on earth is a Micro-Observer! if not another jargon from the ECI’s kitty!
I read on
It tells me I am supposed to second an OBSERVER, an IAS officer presiding the region’s Polls. I am supposed to look after things that I scantily comprehend. And report things I do not want to think of.
It asks me to deputy him ,to see through a nearly impossible happy ending to the polls in the region.It asks me to fight an already lost War.Something that has waged on since decades now!. I am expected to sit amongst insane extremists armed with Automatic Kalashnikovs, waiting in anticipation of a good headline Kill, and make irrelevant notes to somebody who doesn’t give a damned about neither.The notes or me. And all this to somebody who couldn’t save his wallet from a silly street urchin! Oh such Hypocrisy!
The worst has just happened. I have been chosen to micro-observe the bishrampur block of this doomed district. I feel like a goat waiting to get slaughtered. I am calling up every possible contact to get myself out of this trap. But all in vain. No reservations, I have to go there. That’s what the scroll in my left hand says.It just arrived. They find me everywhere.
The last person I want to think about at this point in time is Srivastav, but he creeps in. He is just a bloody clerk in my office! And ever since he has known about my misfortunes , he has been reciting tales of people who’ve witnessed worse.
He tells me stories of men who were killed in naxal ambushes. I told you he knows I have this condition, (of getting sick) . I am scared to listen to them too. But I don’t tell him to stop, lest he thinks I am bothered. And now that he knows I am micro-observing Bishrampur. He is telling me all about it. Last panchayat polls there ended in a bloodbath. The insurgents killed 6 persons. And none that was killed had anything to do with the polls or the insurgents.GOD I don’t want to think about Srivastav. He’s scares the living daylights out of me.
I re dialled all the numbers and did it again, but no one returns my calls. They say everyone deserts you when you have nothing to lose, except your life. There are more scrolls inside this new envelope from the ECI.
I don’t want to read them all. I know each one of them tells me what I already know. I think of ways to escape it. What if I catch acute influenza?. I float through the scrolls until I read this.
- Palamu is an extremely sensitive area infested with extremist activities and insurgent outfits. For your personal safety, please follow the following instuctions
- 1. Do not use vehicles to move around your allocated constituency. Vehicles are prime targets for possible Landmine Attacks.
- 2. Do not move in groups and maintain a safe distance from any police vehicles.
- 3. Report immediately to the stationed police picket about any loose wire ends , dug up roads, loose earth that you witness around the polling area.
- 4. Avoid any acquaintance with the local people in and around the polling area.
My throat feels croupy. I drink a glass of water and read on.
“All micro-observers are required to be present in person at the Commissioner’s Office on the 15th Day of April 2009. Any absenteesm would draw an F.I.R against the respective absentee.”
It all ends here. And here I stand Trapped.
15th April 2009. Bishrampur
Its been 2 hours since we started for Bishrampur. There are no signs of life on the highway, except an occasional police check post that halts the vehicle carrying me. I have as my co passengers, other unfortunates with grim faces. I feel like a refugee facing deportation. I want to talk to these people. Some of whome I already know. But none is willing to talk. May be they are as scared as I am. I look at my watch. An old timepiece I received as dowry from my in-laws. I spoke at length to vibha (my wife) and my son Rahul before starting off for this ordeal. They are in Allahabad. I am happy they are away from this hell. They were worried, about this assignment handed over to me. My son tells me more than I knew about the extremism here. He said the naxals had an ideology, but that was long back. Now they need the headlines. I tried to obfuscate what I was undergoing. I spoke to them until my cellphone went out of the coverage area. There is just one Service Provider here, BSNL. But I still have no coverage in my Phone. I want to speak to them again, so that I can divert my mind from the hell that is in store. If this isn’t one already.
Bisrampur is another 15 kms from here. Suddenly I realized we are not alone. There is an army truck loaded with jawans. It reads the BORDER SECURITY FORCE (BSF). They are a good half a mile ahead, sometimes in the field of view , at other times invisible. I bet they are scared too. We have another truck behind our vehicle. This one is a lot closer, and its closing in. It reads ON ELECTION DUTY. We are told to stick together if something goes wrong. An unknown voice instructs our driver on the wireless to maintain a mile’s distance from the leading BSF truck. I start feeling sick. We pass a makeshift army base. I see two choppers ready for the take off. The police and the army is brave. I admit. My job is easier, a lot easier and I thank GOD for that.
We hear a huge explosion somewhere, Is it the end? I am gasping for breath. I have two people over me. My senses betray me. My chest is numb. My eyes, I can barely open . An acute pain shoots my spine. I hear somebody saying it’s a landmine. But I am not afraid anymore. I am squeezed out of the vehicle. They are hitting me in my chest. It hurts now. I see the truck following us parked next to where I lie. I see people talking of emergency. I don’t want to die. I can smell blood and diesel all over me.
The voices are distant again. It has gotten nasty. I don’t want to die. I am in a vehicle now with a mask on my face.Its oxygen. I can hardly breathe now. They keep hitting my chest and it hurts again. I move my fingers to see if I am alive. I am.
There are two people lying next to me. I don’t know if they are alive. I can see the blue sky above, the clouds racing past my head.
Where are they taking us?
Oh!To the poll- booth may be. Didn’t I tell you I am the MICRO-OBSERVER? I guess I did.