'She could not believe how much India had changed since the last time she experienced it first hand,' says Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
After the results of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, my 85-year-old mother-in-law found it difficult to understand why the Bharatiya Janata Party was winning election after election.
She could not understand how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's electoral magic was working everywhere.
"What good has Modi done that he is winning every election?" she asked me.
I told her that voters believe Modi is delivering on his promise of good governance and they feel India has become free of corruption.
"Is that so?" she asked, amused.
"Many believe so," I replied.
"Did you not bribe someone recently to get something done?" she asked.
"Not really," I said, adding, "I never ask officials for favours."
"How can you say India is free of corruption?" she argued, unconvinced.
My mother-in-law has been confined to our home for the last 10 years because of arthritis and a spinal disorder.
In the India she had seen before being home-bound, government offices operated on the basis of bribes or the infamous baksheesh.
One needed to bribe for everything -- for a birth certificate, for school admission, for a ration card, for a gas connection, for a passport, for water connection, even for a death certificate.
My mother-in-law could not believe that bribes had been curbed, if not supposedly extinct in Modi's India.
I wanted to convince my mother-in-law, but I couldn't do so because she is unable to go out and visit government offices.
My Eureka moment arrived when I spotted an Aadhaar mobile van in my area. I sprinted like Bolt to catch the Aadhaar van.
I told the official that my mother-in-law was immobile and wanted an Aadhaar card.
I would have to seek an appointment, he informed me, and an Aadhaar mobile van would arrive home with the necessary equipment.
Giving me the contact information, he asked me to take an appointment at once.
I called up the Unique Identification Authority of India office and provided the details.
My mother-in-law wanted an Aadhaar card for two reasons.
One: She could not believe our maid was getting the LPG subsidy deposited directly in her bank account; two: She thought one needed an Aadhaar card to be buried.
The route to test Mr Modi's governance and prove its widely reported efficacy to my mother-in-law was found.
"Let us see whether we are asked for a bribe," I told her.
Within two days, I got a call from the UIDAI office, asking if I had registered for an Aadhaar card for my mother-in-law.
When I said I had, the person at the other end said a mobile van would be at my home within the hour.
I was late for office, my wife was busy, so I told the UIDAI person that this was not a good time because my mother-in-law may not open the door while she was alone at home.
No problem, the person indicated, they would call me another time.
A week passed. My mother-in-law chided me for my faith in Mr Modi's governance.
Two weeks later, I got a call from the UIDAI office. An Aadhaar van was coming to my area and would it be okay if UIDAI staff visited our home to register my mother-in-law's application?
Thirty minutes after I consented, the Aadhaar staff were at my door.
They took my mother-in-law's photograph and completed the other formalities.
They told us that the Aadhaar card would be available on the UIDAI Web site in 15 days and a hard copy would be mailed to us in three months.
And they left without taking a single rupee as baksheesh.
Two weeks later, I sat with my mother-in-law and logged onto the UIDAI Web site.
I got her Aadhaar card printed, and, within seconds, she had a government id without any hassle and without giving a single paisa as baksheesh.
She could not believe how much India had changed since the last time she experienced it first hand.
"It's magic," she said.
"Modi magic," I replied.