Glossy and Tonzo weren’t around to wag her Wednesday morning blues away, but Debasree Roy did find a four-legged friend to give her the perfect start to V-Day.
“Ektu toh tension chhilo (There was a bit of tension),” admitted the Tolly star-turned-Trinamul candidate, looking relaxed after a few minutes of playtime with four-year-old pug Pogo at a Diamond Harbour hotel.
Debasree, camping in Battleground Raidighi for 40 days, was up and about by 5.30am on her biggest day in politics, yet. By 8am, she was ready to hit the road, the sari (yes, green) the shades (blue-rimmed) and the smile (wide) perfectly in place.
“Everything has been going fine all these days. I don’t want to give anybody the chance to point a finger at me and say: ‘Aajker diney deri korey elo (She was late the day it mattered)’,” she said, stepping into her car after a quick breakfast.
Metro tracked her from morning till afternoon to capture V-Day moments that defined how Debasree the screen star has become Debasree the rising star of Raidighi.
GOOD MORNING, POGO: She has been away from her “children” Glossy and Tonzo for over a month and pug Pogo is just what the doctor ordered for Debasree to ease the tension.
Within minutes of playing with Pogo at the hotel where she had stopped for breakfast, the actress is more concerned about indiscriminate breeding of pets than about her electoral fate. “I wonder how many people know that forced mating of dogs for commercial purposes is a crime. Did you know that it can even lead to cancer?” she asks, pulling Pogo into her arms and petting his paws.
FOOT FAULT: In her signature cotton tangail sari, teamed with large shades, a red bindi and a smear of white ash on her forehead, Debasree looks to have found a cure for 40-day fatigue overnight. But she has forgotten something in her eagerness to start her final tour of Raidighi as a candidate.
“I was in such a daze that I have come out in chappals!” she exclaims, pointing to her feet. But it’s too late to go back to base camp and change her footwear now, for she has already covered some 20 polling booths. In any case, nobody else seems to have noticed her slippers!
“People are more conscious of what I am wearing than I myself am. They are so happy that I am wearing a green and yellow sari today, almost like the colours of the joraphool (Trinamul’s flower symbol). I didn’t realise this until now. Does that mean a few extra votes?” she jokes.
SIP AND BITE: Fried eggs and butter on toast for breakfast, daab (green coconut) after two hours, a cup of tea in between, followed by a lunch of rice, dal (pulses), alu bhaja (fried potato), potol (pointed gourd) curry, fish, mango chutney and tok doi (yoghurt) — hunger clearly hasn’t deserted Debasree on V-Day.
Around 1pm, the Trinamul candidate’s car stops at the house of the local Trinamul leader who is hosting her for lunch. It’s been five hours since she set out and Debasree is, by her own admission, “famished”. On spotting a mango tree laden with green, ripe fruit, she immediately helps herself to one. Her host for the afternoon and his family are delighted.
RAIDIGHI ROUND: Debasree’s V-Day companions are brother Mrigen, minister C.M. Jatua, a police guard and a local guide. Looking out of the car window as it makes its way to a booth, she turns a tad pensive. “It’s my 41st day here. All these days of running around, meeting people, their overwhelming response. I am going to miss it all,” she says.
The hint of sadness at her journey from Day 1 to 41 coming to an end disappears the moment she spots people lining the road adjacent to a polling booth, holding their electoral photo-identity cards. “Dekhe mone hochhe jeno utsab, vote mahotsav (Looks like it’s a festival, a mega festival of voting),” she exclaims.
POLL CALL: She may be new to politics but Debasree the candidate needs no tutoring in the art of communication.
“Shob thik thak cholchhey? Shob shantipriyo toh? (Are things going well? Is everything peaceful?),” she enquires in booth after booth.
When a Trinamul worker complains about a booth not being adequately lit, she immediately speaks to the presiding officer and gets him to arrange for more bulbs and lanterns. She sits on a bench inside the booth till things are set right.
“Elderly voters cannot see the buttons and symbols clearly if the booth is dark. I have also received complaints about some voters being misled into thinking that they need to press the first button (which bears the CPM symbol) to get the machine started!” says Debasree.
Cellphone cameras go “click-click” in every booth that the actress visits, but she is careful not to make eye contact with voters, let alone smile or wave, lest she violate the code of conduct.
But there’s no stopping the click-happy stargazers, including polling officials and paramilitary personnel guarding the booths.
So how does Debasree, who is quite the people’s person, keep a straight face amid the adulation? “I obviously can’t respond to their gestures. If I do anything like that, it might seem like I am trying to influence the voters. Ora abar jeno bhool na bojhey amay (I fear I might be misunderstood),” she says.
THE ENEMY WAVE: Debasree can’t help breaking into peals of laughter every time her car breezes past a poll camp flaunting red flags.
“Did you notice that? They are standing up to wave at me!” she squeals, amused by the irony of it.
Some of these CPM workers and supporters even try to peer through the tinted windows for a glimpse of the actress, only to back away at what could be a sudden realisation that the celebrity they are chasing could, after all, be a giant-killer from the enemy camp.
Will Debasree be the first big star in Bengal to cross over to serious politics? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org