Cities, towns and villages in Punjab and Sindh wear a festive look these days reminding me of an old (but lasting) army advice, which goes something like “whitewash everything static and salute anything that moves”. It appears that candidates contesting the Union Council elections have improvised and imbibed the very spirit of this saying and plastered everything vertical with posters, handbills and graffiti.
Even the otherwise dull Federal Capital has joined the fun, sending a clear message to its residents that at least till the 29th of November, their boredom is over. They can now drive along their city’s roads enjoying rows upon rows of posters and streamers showcasing candidates for the Union Council Elections. I have already done this and the found the experience something like enjoying a drive-thru comic strip.

Take for example the candidate, who has adorned his poster with a full length photograph wearing convocation robes in a bid to convey that he deserves to be elected since he has a university degree. The funny part of this colorful composition is that the text (which is in English) carries basic syntax errors. So much for education and the fact that this constituency is rural and therefore lacking English linguistic skills.

Another would-be councilor has ensured that his whiskers find a prominent place in the streamers that adorn every alternate streetlight on a busy road. Based perhaps on the thumb rule that the client is always right, the composer in this case has done full justice to the magnificent growth above the upper lip. The end result looks like an advertisement for moustache wax, suggesting the notion that if this particular individual loses, he should take up an alternate evocation manufacturing and marketing the stuff.

Then there is the gentleman, who perhaps has no hopes of winning, but is insistent on participating. Lacking numerical and financial support, he has resorted to boosting his morale through poetry of the morbid kind, dishing out stuff to the effect that “his lamp will not be extinguished by the winds of opposition” and that “in his demise, he will be remember wistfully as someone akin to Alexander, The Great”.

Great psychological understanding and a deep study of Freud is evident from the pitch of another candidate, who looks rather young for the undertaking. This enterprising individual claims that his tender age is his weapon as he is expected to be more enterprising and aggressive in delivering. His punch line is that he is likely to outlive his older competitors and therefore provide good governance for a consistently longer period. Now this is what is called optimism.

There is a long line of local government aspirants, who have chosen to present themselves in traditional attire i.e. the pugree. I know at least one of these individuals and often smile to myself in the knowledge that he is an anglophile and gives a wide berth to the headgear he wears in the poster. Perhaps the experience will change his outlook on what is without doubt, a cultural symbol of honor, credibility and dignity.

A family in Central Punjab has adopted an innovative method of keeping election posters at bay from their newly painted boundary wall. They have stenciled a rather smudged four liner in Urdu saying that any candidate, who defaces their premises with his or her election pitch, will not get their votes. Whether their warning will have an effect will depend on how many votes this particular home carries, but what makes it interesting is the fact that the residents of this house have themselves perpetrated an act they are so adamant in preventing.

The other day I found our usually pessimistic plumber working on a leaking joint and whistling a merry tune. Pleasantly surprised, I asked him if he had won a lottery. He tossed an uncharacteristic smile in my direction and said he had – by becoming a partner in a small catering business that was supplying biryani to election offices and meetings. I could not but agree with him and even contemplated for a few unguarded moments the possibility of taking leave from my regular job and becoming an ‘election biryani caterer’ myself.