The world’s biggest ever democratic election got underway here this week and, as always in India, the numbers are staggering. Over 800 million people are eligible to vote in 9 phases between now and 12th May (there will be 6 days of voting in UP and Bihar alone); 543 seats will be contested; there are 930,000 polling stations equipped with 1.4 million electronic voting machines and 11 million personnel have been deployed to keep the whole show on the road. The Indian media and Twitter, needless to say, are in a frenzy trying to predict the outcome. Will Congress and the Gandhi dynasty cling onto power or will the right wing BJP sweep in? In most Delhi neighbourhoods the last few weeks of campaigning ahead of voting on Thursday have been, to put it mildly, boisterous. We happen to live right next to one of the Aam Admi (‘common man’) Party’s offices and getting any peace and quiet to work has been virtually impossible.
In comparison, Old Delhi at dawn today was blissfully quiet. I arrived with a friend just as it was getting light and the city was starting to come to life. I think this might be my favourite time, in my favourite place, when the craziness of the day is still to come and people are taking a little time for themselves. We wandered mainly around the Jama Masjid area where many were waking up on the pavement, the seat of a rickshaw or at one of the many open air charpoy (rope bed) ‘guest houses.’ The chai and omelette sandwich-wallahs were doing a roaring trade. Some early birds were already out selling fruit, vegetables and buckets of meat.
We probably saw more men in their baggy underwear than was strictly necessary but watching a young barber set up his stall in the shadow of the Jama Masjid was sight for sore eyes. We climbed onto the roof of the Haji Hotel and marvelled at the (rare) blue sky behind the mosque. We had a quiet cuppa in Haveli Azam Khan, stocked up on rusks and biscuits at the Diamond Bakery and were back home in time for breakfast and a full day of campaigning.
Anyway here are a few non-election snaps…