[cross posted at hamesha.wordpress.com]
I waited until mid-day before I went off to cast my vote. Partly because yesterday -voting day- was a day off and I could use the extra sleep, but also partly because I -like many others- wanted to see how things would unfold and whether the grand apocalypse that the international media had cooked up will indeed be happening.
It did not.
I went to this station housed in a certain government ministry near my house. I drove there. My car was one of the few on the streets. Dark green ford rangers belonging to the national police were driving at maniac speeds up and down this big thoroughfare I had to cross to get to the station. At the station, there were more international observers than voters, but that might have to do with the fact that I went right at lunchtime and that -as people later told me- this certain area was riddled with voting stations. There were other parts of Kabul where reportedly up to a hundred people stood in lines in the morning to cast their votes. The soldier at the door did an unusually thorough body search and then pointed me to the booth. There were two -one filled with a bunch of lady voting officers in their white IEC vests, and the other, a bit to the left, the male one.
I walked in to a small room with three cardboard box booths at the far end, a table with two persons to my right, and two ballot boxes with five people sitting behind them to my left. I was one of 3 voters there at the time, and two more walked in as I was casting my vote. Unsure of what to do next, I raised my voter’s registration card and said I wanted to vote. I was dressed rather formally for a TV interview and so the elections officers for a minute thought I was one of the observers or officials. It took an awkward split second before one of the seated officers to my right asked for my card, checked my finger, took a pair of scissors and made a triangle cut on the edge of my card (apparently a large number of the punch hole machines were out of order yesterday) and had me dip my finger in the famous purple ink, and told me to blow on it. Then I went over to the next officer who tore two ballots, one for the president, the other for the provincial council member, folded and stamped them, and sent me behind one of the cardboard box booths.
The presidential ballot was one page full color print of 41 candidates (oddly enough including those who had dropped out of the race in favor of others -I had thought their mugs would have been removed). It was easy enough to spot the candidate of choice, circle, and fold again. I sort of had made up my mind about my choice for the president, but there was still some last minute hesitation. In the end I marked the box of the candidate that I would not have voted for on a brighter, sunnier day. But since scary clouds were gathered up on the horizon, I thought I made the choice that would serve us all well at this juncture. These choices are never perfect, one learns. One learns too, that the quest for the perfect, the ideal -as I. Berlin would tell you- is one of the most wrong-headed and dangerous of quests ever.
Then came the four pages, 530-plus provincial council candidate ballot. What a confused mess. I knew the person I was voting for, but had forgotten her ballot number. It took me a good five minutes to look through the four pages and find her picture and name. I made a ’swad sahih’ -tick mark- and folded this too. Then I went over and dropped these in the two designated ballot boxes indicated by green and orange sign papers.
There were some tense looking people sitting on chairs a distance away from the ballot boxes. I told myself these could only be volunteer observers working for one of the campaigns. Everyone looked less excited than I had thought, but I was filled with a mix of indescribable feelings -some of them having to do with the choices I had made, others with the fact of having had the opportunity, finally, to be part of it all. I bid everyone farewell and walked out into the blinding mid-day sun, and instantly started rubbing the ink off my finger. The ink, faint and almost unrecognizable earlier, had congealed into a black purple and was impossible to remove.