The Beautiful Ms Sharma
The corridors of the Chaudhury Chhaturam Mahavidalay are alive with the sound of EVMs. Likesomemythological bird, they fill up the polling booths one by one with their chirps. Outside sits RK Singh and Farmana Siddiqi, in uniform, doing their special police duty bearing their light-sabrelooking batons with a friendly touch. Singh has been deputed from faraway Sultanpur, some 70 0 k ms away from Muzaffarnagar. “It’s been very peaceful. It’s very nice,” says Singh, who was also here during the less-than-tranquil 2014 Lok Sabha elections that took place in the wake of the 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar. Siddiqi, her hair smartly tied up in a tight bun, even smiles. She is from Baghpat, some two hours away. Both of them look, well, happy sitting under the crisp winter sun looking across a startingly clean, salmon pinkwalled school compound. Also bearing a smile, sitting inside an auto and looking into the distance, as if distance was not space but t i me, is the b e g u ml i ke 9 5 -yea r - old Vidyavati Sharma. Her r e g a l , b o ny face is l i ned with decades of pol l booth visits – “for the last 50 years” she t el l s me with that smile t hat spre ads out f rom i nside the auto. I tell her that, yes, I am a little older than her. W h i c h may have come across as, yes, I am a l it t l e older for her, since she turns her smile into a full-throated laugh. Her son Amar Sharma appears, brother Jitendra and families in tow. “She’s been up since early morning waiting to go out and vote – haranguing all of us to leave as soon as the daily family puja got over,” he says with a laugh. As they all enter – mother, sons, daughters-in-law and their kids – and then putter away out of the school compound, I have only one thought: Vidyavati of Muzaffarnagar was once a very beautiful younger woman.