When election fever strikes, voters, myself included, rush enthusiastically to voting booths to usher a change. We also exhort other voters to cast their vote and be a part of forming the government. A bit like our attitude to marriage don't you think? When we get married we try to convince others to join the ride, extolling the virtues and benefits of being hitched. Suddenly, being married feels so much better than being single. In fact, we even try to pressurise singles into marriage and are constantly trying to set them up on blind dates with potential life partners.
However, marriage is not a solution to all problems. In fact it could exacerbate old problems and add new ones. Like we see with bad governments or bad leaders. The newly elected government under Trump in America has everyone alarmed, for example, and the sense of unease isn't abating. Everyone is on edge, waiting for the next verbal missile to threaten the world order.
Our attitude towards elections mirrors the way we tend to enter into marriage—we have few hopes of a dream life but we go through the motions...
But a good marriage, of course, can also be the start of a dream run of your life, much like good governments and governance. Just look at Singapore and how it rose from a virtual non-entity to one of the biggest commercial hubs in the world, despite its small size and few natural resources. Similarly the transformation of Dubai from desert to desert Disney has been remarkable.
Bad marriages and bad governments, of course, put you in a tight spot, not only within the relationship but also with outsiders. Think North Korea—we have a situation of extreme unhappiness and internal strife coupled with poverty and low levels of education, in which everyone seems to be on the losing side. And the downslide continues unabated. It puts you on the back foot while dealing with the realities of life and makes you ill-equipped to deal with most situations in life. Similarly it upsets all those around the situation—the outsiders. How many times have we shuddered at the thought of interacting with a couple in a bad marriage because their negativity and sarcasm flows through the entire evening?
Neutral marriages are like the government in India. All of us know that when we go to elect a government we do so with enthusiasm but with almost no expectation. We elect them expecting them to do minimal work—our primary aim is to see how well the government might serve our self-interest. Our attitude towards elections mirrors the way we tend to enter into marriage—we have few hopes of a dream life but we go through the motions because it's the expected thing to do. Although things are changing now, we are not yet a culture that nurses dreams of happily-ever-after. Marriages are still predominantly about matching castes and communities and horoscopes in a calculated process that has little romance.
But things are changing, slowly but surely, and with the advent of the mobile phone revolution our dreams are peppered with greater expectations both in marriages and governments. And in case they don't perform well there's the next election or perhaps the next wedding!
A version of this post was previously published here.