The day before voting, I make my way down to the polling centre, one of three in the village, to get my voter’s ID card. This was the school my father and his siblings attended as children, and workers are busy preparing for the next day.
I am hoping to see ward chair candidates of the two main parties to interview them, but I’m informed that both of them have gone into town, and will not be back anytime soon.
“People have come all the way from Kathmandu, all for one vote,” someone comments as I pass by their house on my way back. There are 2,715 voters in this ward. I figure every vote will count.
I walk down to the voting centre after lunch on Election Day. It is crowded, but just as many people are gathered outside in the mid-morning sun, watching the goings-on. Most of those in the polling centre are women. The men have already voted in the morning.
The heat wraps around the back of my neck as I stand in line, my back soaked in sweat. The voter behind me has her arm wrapped around my shoulder. I have never seen her before. The voters in front of me have already made friends with the temporary police stationed at the front of the line.
They complain about having to leave their umbrellas at the gate of the polling centre. The masked policemen, clad in their full-sleeved dark blue uniforms and leather boots, shrug their shoulders. “I don’t make the rules,” one of them says.
Just then, a man calls over a young woman he knows to the front of the women’s line leading to instant uproar. A policeman directs the woman to go to the end of the line to which the man replies with not to tell him what to do.
“It’s the heat,” someone in line says. “We all need to calm down.”
The line finally moves, and I make my way to the relative cool of the tented area where voting officials check and double-check our IDs, and hand us the ballots. Someone behind me has come to vote with her citizenship certificate, but her name is not on the voter’s list. There is a murmur of sympathy. She gives a rueful smile and leaves.
As we wait in line in front of the voting booths, an elderly woman some ways behind me is asking how to correctly vote and fold the ballot. We show her how, and she squats right down and begins smoothing the paper over the uneven ground.
“I’m going to fold this beforehand, just in case I do it wrong in there,” she says. Our laughter carries in the air.
At my turn, I cast my vote and make my way out of the polling centre.
On the way back, the women behind me are asking each other in hushed tones, ‘के मा छाप हानेउ त?’ (Whom did you vote for?). It reminds me of when I was a student, sharing answers with my friends on the way back from the exam hall.
It starts raining in the afternoon, and the downpour continues throughout the day. Later, the lights wink out. No one knows when the power will come back.
At the dinner table, my two young cousins who do not yet vote discuss the election. My brother is especially keen to know whom I voted for.
“The candidates must be so stressed right now,” my sister says. “They probably won’t sleep until the results are announced.”
By the next morning, the rain has stopped and the power restored. Another one of my uncles comes by to visit his brother, along with a neighbour. Devi Karki, a candidate who ran for ward member, is there as well. The four get into a conversation about the other wards in the municipality, the vote counts of which are underway.
They talk about who should have ran instead of who, and who is likely to win. They support different parties, but the discussion is objective.
There is word that the ballots of this ward will begin to be counted at 3PM. In this village, where 1,990 out of all eligible voters cast their ballots, every vote will count when counting starts.
“I slept really well last night,” Karki says, “I sleep best when I am worried.”
The foursome finish their tea, and Devi Karki calls out to my aunt to get her sickle and get a move on. The time for discussion is over— there is work to be done, livestock to be fed.
The two women head down to the fields. From the courtyard I look down the hill, wondering when enough time will have passed that my family can drop by each other’s houses.