By Naila Sheikh – Houston, TX
All I have on my mind is to go cast my vote before early voting in Houston, TX ends at 7 PM today. I am fully prepared and know exactly which location to choose from as I plan out my day . I feel obliged to act upon my civic right and to contribute as much as I possibly can. It’s this kind of political spirit that makes you feel included as an active part of history and certainly an active participant as a citizen of this country. My first trip to the polls occurred four years ago when I was enticed by all the ‘change’ in the air and the excitement was too contagious to be witnessing from living rooms alone. My internal and external transformation from a Dutch passport holder (born & raised in Holland) to becoming a full fledged American Citizen happened in a bittersweet moment of raising my right hand and pledging to become an upholding member of society whilst letting go of my European identity – an inner pride that I carried, bragged about and felt very much adventurous with. The letting go part, I knew, was certainly overdue as I had already made America my home, my solace, my safe abode where the sun shines bright and opportunities are always on the horizon.
So, on this beautiful November afternoon as I stood there waiting in line, my thoughts must have wandered, my attention must have derailed but my heart was fully committed to elect the next President of the United States with a single vote from an individual like me, who took merely two hours out of their time, standing, pondering (or in my case, talking away with my friend) taking each slow-motion step towards a nearer distance of the voting polls until….yes! The voting polls in sight! Aye Aye Captain! “Soon…very soon”, I thought to myself. “We will be hitting shore and I’ll turn the wheel to a better future for America…”
My thoughts were abruptly interrupted as I was finally guided into ‘voting territory’ and quickly scanned my surroundings with busy voters concentrating on their task ahead. I smiled at the friendly Texan faces managing paperwork and smoothly instructing the herd across the hallway from where I could see my voting booth no. 5. As I input my access code and started the process, I let the ‘wheel’ turn to my choice of desired government. Alas, mission accomplished! You can now leave your booth – the text read in big bold letters. “Oh that was easy”, I thought. I headed to the nearest exit door where I spotted my friend checking her cellphone for messages; returning back to normalcy where texts, calls and fast pick up foods are the norm of humanly activities.
With a high-five and a “WE DID IT” chant of ‘Dora the Explorer’ joy that familiarly echoes in my living room and into my toddler’s ears every single day, I made a silly exit towards some highly needed fresh air and felt joyful just as Dora feels when completing her mission.
Upon returning home and striking a conversation with my husband on my experience and highlight of the day, I realized my observations had left me with an absence of recognition and a slight disappointment on not seeing any – I repeat, not one, not two, not ANY brown people (desis) standing in line to vote! Of course, I should not heavily base my judgement on that time period that I was there…but it still is astonishing to me to see people from all walks of life, with strollers, pregnant women, elderly, thin, obese, tall, short but no Desis. For a place like Houston, I find the chances to be unlikely. I think of the courageous fifteen year old Malala Yousafzai from the Swat Valley of Pakistan who stood up against the Taliban for her right on education where girls are banned from attending school. She fearlessly fought for her right, being well aware of the dangers on her life when openly voicing her opinion and demanding education. This little girl has left the world in awe where prayers for her health and recovery have nothing been short of coming. I think of her and I think of the place I live in, where freedom is practiced and where I have all the opportunities to a better life, a better future on all basis. I will certainly pass on this political spirit to my children and make them feel aware of the amazing lifestyle granted to them.
“Earn your right, don’t take it for granted, my sweet children” says a 60 year old Aunty Naila from the very, very distant future.
~ Aunty Ji
Image courtesy of Trillium Residential