At the end of the day on which Mumbai got its collective finger inked, I was filming a selfie outside the gates of a school near the vegetable market in Byculla in Mumbai South. It was less narcissistic than it sounds – I was finishing off a day of intense live blogging.
It was going pretty smoothly, until I noticed the watchful glare of a police officer, who ambled over, and stood in front of me, his arms folded. I rushed through the remaining sentences, trying not to lapse into awkward gibberish as I did so, and put my phone in my pocket.
“What are you doing?” asked the young officer, gesturing at my pocket.
“I’m just…” I hesitated, “…filming.” I quickly added, “I’m a journalist covering the elections.” The policeman’s brow was still furrowed as he hit me with a follow-up.
“Are you here on a visa?” he asked. “Which one?”
We had a little back and forth like this until I realised it was inquisitiveness rather than inquisition. It turned out that he had been working nearly non-stop for 48 hours.
“People here are very proud,” he said. “Everybody votes. Why don’t they in Britain?”
I shrugged. “Maybe it’s because people think all the parties are the same?” I suggested. “There’s not that much difference between them.” My new friend thought for while, then came up with the answer.
“It’s probably because we have a real democracy and you have the Queen,” he said, pointedly. “We can choose for ourselves.”
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