Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Kafka in today's Bangalore

Why do folks read books? Reading works for me because books give me interesting and unusual perspectives on reality. I was mulling over the term 'Kafkaesque' when reality overtook me. Recent revision of electoral rolls in Karnataka threw up huge anomalies. Many names, including those of me and my family members, vanished in a stroke of inscruitable, elusive authority. While I struggled to get it rectified, my son gave me an idea. Why not write a fun piece on my predicament? I did, and here's what was published on the Editorial page of Deccan Herald on the 30th of Jan.

Reading Kafka and reconnecting to life can produce interesting results :-) I'm not quite sure how the Easter Island guys fit in except that to me, they're rather Kafkaesque, too.


On a chill January morning, I woke from troubled dreams in a cold sweat. No demon slithered out from the toothpaste tube, and the kitchen sink did not suck me into a bottomless vortex. The morning routine continued without disasters more dire than the milk boiling over. Deceived into complacency, I dug into a reassuring plate of idlis.

The doorbell clanged, nearly jolting my breakfast off my lap. A lanky, dour-faced man peered in through the door and barked, “Voters’ list check.”
“Four voters here,” I said, proudly flashing our photo identity cards.
“No voters enrolled from this door number,” said Dour-face.
The nightmare of a struggle for identity, understanding and security had begun.

I pored over his lists, checking every page. Our numbers, our names, our very existence had vanished in a stroke of bureaucratic whim and authority. “We’ve lived here since 1995, and voted in every election,” I pleaded. “Please correct the list.”
“Proof of identity and residence?” Dour-face growled.
“If I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t be opening the door dressed like this. And that’s undoubtedly my mug on the card,” I said, waving our photo identity cards again.

“As per my list, you don’t exist. Register again with valid proof of residence.” Dour-face thrust a Form 6 into my hand and marched off to negate the identities of the folks next door.

Unable to comprehend my fate, I searched websites and directories for an elusive supreme authority that could restore my true selfhood. The name and contact number of an official offered hope of redemption.
“My family members are registered as voters from this address since 1995, but your enumerator says our names are not included.”
“What is your problem?”
Feeling more preposterous than a cockroach in a clown suit, I repeated my query.
“Where do you stay?”
I told him.
“Gregor Samsa…,” I almost blurted out, remembering Franz Kafka’s hero who lost his identity and was transformed into a gigantic insect. But I stopped myself, pleased that I could still remember my name.
“I don’t attend to your area,” the official said, although the website stated otherwise. No, he didn’t know whom I should contact.

I am now struggling against hope and fear, reason and inanity, in a confusing world where I just might find an intangible truth about the human condition


Anonymous said...

Unsettling experience. Keep us posted on what happens?

monideepa sahu said...

Hi and thanks for dropping by. Complaints of huge anomalies in the current voters list in our state has made the authorities sit up. The lists are being revised and I've sumbitted our applications. Hopefully all errors will be rectified by the 8th of FEb, when the revised list is to come out. The heartening thing is, free and fair elections do continue to take place here, and India survives as the world's largest democracy :-)