It was high noon and the sun was blazing when 80-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Nayeem walked into a polling booth on Thursday in Jamshedpur to cast his vote.
Clad in a lungi and kurta, the octogenarian resident of Attar Line in Mango came out a happy man from a booth at Rashtriyapita Gandhi Madhya Vidyalaya, proudly showing his inked index finger.
Nayeem, a science graduate and former Tata Motors employee, as well as the existing secretary of Mango Bari Masjid, has been voting for the past 57 years.
He first voted as a 23-year-old from Chakradharpur in West Singhbhum in 1957, the country’s second Lok Sabha elections. “The first one was held in 1952, but I was not yet 21 at that time. Back then, the voting age was 21 and not 18,” he said.
This is the 16th Lok Sabha election. Nayeem said he felt proud to vote yet again.
“Apna mat ka adhikar ko sab ko istemal karna chahiye. Main jab itne saal se yeh kar rahan hoon to kam umra ke log kyun nahin karte? (Everyone should exercise their right to vote. When I am doing this for so many years, why not the younger ones?)” he wondered.
Explaining why he waited till noon, he said felt unwell in the morning. “Ideally, I should have come in the morning. But I skipped the idea as I was not feeling well. I came to the booth at 12.15pm,” he said.
“My wife Naheed, however, is very particular,” he chuckled. “She went and voted in the morning.”
The couple’s only daughter Rukaiah Nahid died in the Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision near New Delhi in 1996.
He added that every election takes him back in time, recalling India’s history and his personal milestones.
“I was a science graduate from Ranchi College. I remember we stayed in Chakradharpur till 1959, when we shifted to Jamshedpur. Here, I landed a job in Telco (now Tata Motors). I worked as a chemist with the company’s laboratory. I retired as a senior chemist in 1997. Since then I am trying to spread goodwill among communities as a Mango Peace Committee member,” Nayeem said.
On the country’s electoral fortunes, he rued the rise of caste and vote bank politics: “Elections should be about issues and ethics. But, I am hopeful that people will make the right choice.”
On the scenario of 2014, he said: “Elections have become very chaotic with so many parties in fray. When I started voting, there were very few political parties and the election process was obviously a smooth and simple affair.”
That’s why he was generous in praising East Singh district administration for conducting the polls in a systematic manner. “Hats off to the district authorities. They have done a wonderful job.”
He is also a fan of the EVMs. “These machines have made voting simpler and easier. There is no scope for adopting unfair means,” he said.