My First Vote


Pooja Shameem

I will be voting for the first time in my life this November 3rd 2020.  Voting is a right I haven’t had the privilege to exercise during the first four decades of my life.  Ironically, I was only 13 when I had risked my life to fight for the right to vote, to overthrow the then absolute monarchy of my native land.  I had even published an article on a prominent national newspaper titled “whom should I vote for?”, pretending to be a 16-year-old, an eligible voting age in Nepal, with the hope of influencing the election results.  I did not want the Naxalite leaders, who had assassinated my industrialist grandfather 20 years earlier, to come into power. Little did I know then, I would have to wait nearly three decades to actually cast my first ever vote.  I will certainly not take it for granted,

Last time I met my girlfriends for our usual monthly brunch get together, we naturally happened to discuss the political climate in the US and the upcoming general election.  The same people who were shocked and outraged by the outcome of the last general election when Donald J Trump became our 45th elected president, seemed indifferent this time around.  They collectively voiced that the choices on both sides were less than ideal, so probably not worth even showing up at the voting booth.  I remember feeling a bit let down by their unconcerned stance but kept my feelings mostly to myself as I needed some time to process and understand their perspective.  Ever since, I have thought about this quite a bit.  How and when did this shift take place? How is it that all five of my moderately liberal friends have become unconcerned that American politics had gradually taken a wrong turn, threatening our democracy, the effect of which probably irreversible or a very long term at best.  Is this reflective of moderate America or is it still not urgent enough for the voters to have seriously evaluated the choices in front of them?  Either way, it was concerning.  Has this political climate become the new normal now?  Why have we become complacent about the current administration’s lack of integrity, accountability or basic empathy for fellow humans?  Are we taking our democracy for granted?  How have we let go of our American values, our dreams of leading humanity into a better future and our aspirations of rising above our limitations? 

This election is not about Trump vs Biden, and it is not about Democrat vs Republican.  This election is about fear vs hope, it’s about united vs divided, it’s about democracy vs autocracy.  A simple rhetoric from the leadership can influence millions within seconds.  In a population of 300 plus millions, we have all sorts of mindsets.  Which parts get a nod of encouragement and which parts get suppressed depends on the tone set by the one who has been given the power to steer the course of our nation by the very people who elect the one.  Trump did not change America; he merely stoked the ugly side of America that had been repressed earlier by competent and compassionate leaderships we had chosen to spearhead us.  Regardless of our political views, one thing that united us was the love for our democracy and freedom.  We have relentlessly nurtured and safeguarded the strength and solidarity of our nation for centuries now.  We have inspired many nations around the world to follow our footsteps.  We have been the cultivator of human progress.  Many have flocked to this land from all across the globe through the passage of time, in hopes of living their dreams.  

Are we ready to relinquish all that up?  There is no unfound land on earth remaining for us to escape to, to build another utopian society that welcomes and nurtures human ingenuity.  This is it.  It may not be perfect but this is the closest we have gotten in recent human history.  Is it not worth fighting for?  Time has brought us to a pivotal point in history where we get to choose which direction we want to go.  Embrace love for humanity and our only home, the earth and march forward towards unity and hope.  Or give into our insecurities and fear, and empower the monster that is leading us back to stone ages?  Which side do we choose?  Not making a choice is equivalent to choosing to keep things the way it is.  

We can’t hide behind the excuse of the economy to support something that is going to destroy the very soul of America.  If you are still struggling to make your choice, you are subconsciously agreeing to whatever has unfolded in the last four years under this administration.  It is perhaps time to step away from everything and contemplate on what it is that has made you complacent about the state of our nation?  Is it your loyalty to a certain party?  If so, is party loyalty above national sovereignty?  Is the party even upholding its own ideologies currently? Or is it because the current administration’s mindset does not impact you negatively since you are on the side that benefits from its agenda?  If so, what happens if the same exclusive mindset prevails until the circle becomes so small only a handful find themselves privileged?  Do you have too much faith in our constitution and believe nothing can threaten it?  Hasn’t this administration demonstrated that much of our nation’s highest office’s integrity relies on the respect they hold for it?  Haven’t they shown us that there is a lot they could exploit through misuse of their authority if they wish and still get away with it?  Or do you believe we are too strong and powerful to fail?  Hasn’t history taught us how the mightiest of empires have collapsed in a blink of an eye when they resorted to insecurities and hatred, instead of love and unity?  What would it take for you to be convinced that your vote holds a very powerful voice that could change the course of humanity?  Can we really afford to risk it at this point?

The whole world is holding its breath and watching us this election hoping we will collectively make the right choice and pull ourselves out of this mess.  This may be the single most important choice you will be making in your lifetime.  Please don’t waste it.  This November 3rd, please vote and make your voice heard.   Make every effort to cast your ballot and to influence your family and friends to do the same.  Do it as if your life and future depend on it.

(Pooja is my daughter (in law), wife of Baqar Shameem and mother of Eshan and Ayaan. An alumni of Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, where she graduated in Masters in Mechanical Engineering with honors. After working in corporate world at various technical and leadership capacities, she is currently engaged in establishing her own startup. The knowledge and expertise on yoga and meditation gained at Rishikesh, India and Kapan Monastry Nepal, not only benefit her family members but will also to the rest very soon as her Company commences to expose and spread them.

Our best wishes to her!)


2 thoughts on “My First Vote”

  1. Pooja, I am indeed touched by your thoughts on tomorrow’s elections in your great country. I am commenting on what you have said, not as a distant reader but one who has an emotional connect with your family. Your father in law and I are classmates from King George’s School, Bangalore. The bonds we developed there in those seven years have remained strong all these years between us.
    He has told me about you and your husband during the stay of my wife and I at their beautiful house in Secunderabad, the initial reluctance to give an OK to Bakar marrying you and Bawar marrying you and Baqars standing firm on his resolve. From what I have read in the blog and Baquirs short write up about you, I admire Baqars choice of a life partner. I have been seeing pictures of Eshan and Ayan with their doting grandfather and the very close knit family with so much warmth in it.
    I also have an emotional connect to you since you come from Nepal and I have served in a Gorkhha Regiment of the Indian army and my Regiment is my second home. I enrich the winter of my life with warm memories of my school and Regimental days. Just last month, for Dassehra, we exchanged greetings with my old JCOs as well as my batman from Pokhra and Gorkha and of course with my India based regimental colleagues. Thanks to technology, we are(my wife is as close to my Regiment as I am) in daily touch with past and present of my regiment. We even have a bridge group of my regiment , we from Bangalore, one from Chandigarh, three from Delhi and one from Kerala. We play twice a week, what fun it is, more gup shup than bridge.
    My wife and have a deep attachment with Nepal. On our last visit we visited Nepal , before the massive earthquake, our visit to Pasupathinath has been etched in our minds. The solemnity and aura of the place was one aspect but the greater connect was from the fact that the priests were from the South of India. Irrespective of the present political dispensation of Nepal, the connect to India, irrespective of the big brother attitude of India at times, is strong.
    Let me now comment on what you wrote. Firstly, a great choice for you and your husband to migrate to USA. It is a land of opportunities and you and Bawar have proved it. When Baquir was trying to get Sabina to the US, they stayed wuth us in Chennai where we lived then. It’s so nice the the two brothers and the sister have prospered in the US.
    As regards Trump and his erratic ways, I appreciate your views on urging people to make the right choice. Trump has no history of public service. Making money ruthlessly was his only aim in life. He has no connect with the glorious principles on which your nation was founded. It is alien to him. However, I do believe in astrology and Trump is likely to make it. Like in human lives, life of a nation is cyclic and even this will pass. It can’t be as bad as the time USA went to war in Vietnam. It is also ironic that whoever USA devastated in wars have evetually prospered, Vietnam, Japan, Germany.
    My only good thought for Trump is that he has taken a tough stand against China and that helps India in the current military situation.
    I am so happy about your stint in the corporate world and your interest and knowledge in Yoga and meditation. Do spread it as a gift from this land of spirituality.
    God bless you Pooja.


  2. Thank you for such kind and wonderful words, Uncle. Papa always speaks so fondly of his classmates. I admire the friendship, the bond and the comradery between you all. I have been fortunate to meet some of his classmates and hope to meet you soon as well. Thank you for supporting Papa on his passion for writing. He really values the feedback he receives from you all and keeps him inspired to write more. I felt the same reading your comment above – inspired to write more!

    Also appreciate your fondness of Nepal and her people. The bahadur Gurkhas certainly do leave a lasting impression on people with their bravery, service and loyalty. And the bond between Indians and Nepalese are of special kind for sure due to similar culture, language and food. Please do explore more of Nepal, she has a lot to offer. And if you ever visit US, we would love host you and your wife at our place.

    And please pray that the election result tomorrow is in favor of Biden.

    Please convey my regards to your wife!

    Warm regards,


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