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The View From Mumbai

[I asked my friend Carl Hoffman, who is on a crazy journey around the world on the most dangerous conveyances imaginable, if he'd tell us how the election looks from Mumbai. Here's his dispatch.]

By Carl Hoffman

Mumbai's commuter trains are the most crowded on earth, and I fell into conversation with Peter DeSilva as we were, literally, hanging out of the Virar 12 Car Slow commuter train, heading from downtown Mumbai to the deep suburbs of Virar, 58 kilometers to the north. DeSilva, every bit the Indian despite his Portuguese Catholic name, asked me "To which country to you belong?"

"America," I said.

"Who is going to win the election today?" he said. I've been traveling in Indonesia and India for nearly a month and DeSilva, like everyone else I've spoken to, was as tuned into the American election as most Americans.

"Who do you want to win," I said.

"Obama!" he said, "because he likes us."

Might not seem a very sophisticated reason, but, as I've learned, it gets to the heart of the matter; it says everything, and I've heard it over and over again. Much of the world thinks the current president hates them. Is out to get them. Disrespects them. But they love America! They're desperate to love it more! You get the feeling that if they could just find someone to sit down and talk to them, shake hands with them, look them in the eye, then a coalition of the willing wouldn't be such a hard sell.

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 4, 2008; 11:27 AM ET
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I'm looking forward to loving America more too.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 4, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

First in line?

Posted by: greenwithenvy | November 4, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: greenwithenvy | November 4, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

We don't ask for much, just three or four kits a day, and three to five interesting columns and articles per week, maybe a few dozen photographs, and a personal appearance from time to time.

Posted by: bobsewell | November 4, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Tell Carl Hello. I have been reading his stuff regularly, and think the word "crazy" fits very well. But in a good way.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 4, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

The ScienceFamily has voted. We had a nice oatmeal breakfast, taking it slow this morning. Used "The Google" to review the candidates on the under-card (Board of Education posed the greatest challenge), and debated the two Questions to make Amendments to the Maryland Constitution. We strolled to our neighborhood polling place, about 10:00 AM. The walk was lovely and the line was short. Civic pride was thick in the air, like a sweaty locker room on game day. Tonight, we take advantage of our "I Voted" stickers to gain free tacos at California Tortilla.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 4, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Man, I miss Bloom County...


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 4, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I love this message from our neighbors around the world. I agree heartily. We are voting for Obama because he likes us. It's really that simple. I'm tired of being disliked by my government.

And now... reposted from previous boodle...

Son of G was so antsy to vote that we went over around 10:30 and were home by 11:00--and that was taking time to talk to neighbors and friends we ran into there. Voting is so much fun and I figure those folks I saw with huge smiles had voted Democratic.

When we left after putting our paper ballots in the scanner (which looked suspiciously like a shredder) Son of G and I hugged and he gave me a huge kiss. A big moment for a young man.

We return at 2 for our two-hour shift at the polls. The kids are handing out sample ballots and I'll be a Democratic observer.

I'm exhausted after standing for 11 hours yesterday/last night in Manassas. Being about 20 feet away from Obama made it worth it and having my daughter and her friend there was great (and the reason I went).

Joel doesn't mention the near mutiny when the musicians decided we should try to make the Guiness Book of World Records and all do the Electric Slide. But the crowd was energetic, friendly and I feel like we made some great friends.

We managed to meet up with our Obamateers and their group, so we had fun getting to know them. The young men staying with us were being picked up at 3 am to be at the polls in Prince William County before they opened and we got home around 2 am. I had to say good-bye to them last night because there was no way I was awake at 3:00.

Son of G and I are going to the celebration tonight in McLean. We'll take our laptops and hope they have wifi there. So live boodling may be in the cards for us.

Those of you who haven't yet... make sure you VOTE!


Posted by: -TBG- | November 4, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Well i went down and voted almost exclusively along dem party lines.Although I do have a friend/aquaitance who was running for wildlife manager who is a rep,so I voted for her.Also another rep who I used to work with at the state park. We had about a 15 minute wait, in 2000 I waited at least an hour or more.

In 2000 we had a paper ballot and it was huge,it had a mark an X in the spot and then the ballot had to folded down at least 10 times to fit in the ballot box,it also had to be held by me(the voter) and the election offical together when we put it in the ballot box.

In 2004 I voted at the courthouse,normal standard switch flipping and open the curtain to cast your ballot.

This year we stepped into the 21st Century with electronic touch screen computerized voting.It was cool and you could go back and make sure everything was done correctly.We have come a long way baby here in West by God!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | November 4, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Cohen's column today is good. Lyndon Johnson's having a big day.

Thinking of Bloom County, political cartoonist briefly had a comic strip, "Sunday Punk" in the Denver Post. Once, Oliphant's little penguin had assembled a huge donut, coffee, newspaper when the doorbell rang. He opens the door, revealing something like Opus. Door slams. Calls the police. "Imposter squad, please."

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | November 4, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

It took waiting in line for an hour, but I did the deed and voted for Obama. My voting precinct has only about 1800 people in it (most of them really, really old -- even older than Mudge and me, if that can be imagined for goodness sakes), and I was told that the lines have been there all day so far.

This bodes extremely well.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | November 4, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

ftb, do we live in the same county?

Posted by: greenwithenvy | November 4, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm working in a deeply divided office, and have been hearing periodic rants today, from both sides. The rest of us, non-ranters, are keeping our noses to the grindstone and minding our own business.

So in that spirit, let me be the first to go off-topic here to note a development in the world of books. We talk about "frenvy" a lot here, and this makes me think it's Joel's turn now: achenfriend Michael Lewis has a book coming out December 1 on the subject of economic crashes--"Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity."

That's what I call timing. If ever a book was in a good position to be a best seller -- and he didn't even have to WRITE it! Just "collected" the stuff. Good cover, too:

And now, back to the election...

Posted by: kbertocci | November 4, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

gwe -- I'm in Bethesda (Montgomery Cty, which is really quite large as counties go). Near Montgomery Mall, if that helps.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | November 4, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the dispatch from Carl Hoffman. Them and us, both - we all want a president that doesn't hate us. As RD said yesterday, only more coherently, I want to want to shake my president's hand.

Thanks for the poll descriptions, everyone. It is a long time till 3 pm here, when the Boy & I can rejoice in civic responsibility.

Whoever did the over/under for Kits tonight clearly should have factored in multiple Kits for today.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 4, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Another new kit!

Posted by: Moose13 | November 4, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Quick report from the polls out here in Urbana, MD:

Walked the two blocks over to the elementary school, my assigned polling place. Greeted a man and woman (a couple, most likely) walking away from the school, neat little white oval "I Voted" stickers adorning their sweaters.

"Hi. What's the line like?"
"10 or 15 minutes," said the woman with a smile.
"It looks longer than it really is," they said in unison, then looked at each other and laughed. I laughed, too.
"Thanks," I said. "Don't forget to wear those stickers up to the Dunkin' Donuts for some free coffee."
"We will," they said, as we turned with a wave and walked in opposite directions.

When I got to the school property and headed for the back of the line outside the door,, I saw a young lady with two small children, a 2-year old and an infant in a carrier, walking from the parking lot on my left at Recalcitrant 2-Year Old pace. I slowed to let them get in line ahead of me. When we settled in, she eyed my 'Error in '08' t-shirt and said, "Did you know that there's no line over at the Library? You can just walk right in and vote."
I ignored the implication. "My confirmation said to come here. I didn't even know the Library *was* a polling place. Good to know, though." By this time, she was engaging her two-year old; "Do you see anything orange?"

The grey-haired lady behind me said that it was good I brought a book and waved some sort of economic textbook as a gesture of solidarity. Then she opened her book and began reading.

As the line moved into the school, people looked at my shirt with interest, and I noticed a guy on a bench wearing a Mitt Romney hat. We eyed each other with a smile and nodded. When the line shuffled closer to his perch, I said, "Nice hat. '12 will be here sooner than you think."
While I spoke, he read the front of my shirt completely. "Thanks." He nodded to indicate my shirt. "Error?"
"Any vote I cast could be construed as a mistake by somebody. But Error was a friend of mine who joked about running for President. He passed away last year."
"Oh," he said, arching a brow. "Sorry," and clearly didn't know what to say now.
My place in the line was moving past him now, so I said over my shoulder, "If you see anyone in Ron Paul gear, please let me know."
When I went inside, they didn't look at my ID (they did eye the shirt), but validated my name, address and date of birth, then had me sign a receipt before handing me a card to operate the Diebold machine.
Three minutes later, I was walking out into the fresh air, feeling good at having discharged my civic duty as a citizen.
And the little white oval "I Voted" looks good on my 'Error in '08' shirt, right over my heart.


Posted by: -bc- | November 4, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I'll never forget the very first time I voted, FTB. Couldn't wait to get that swine King John I out of office, him and that whole Sheriff-of-Nottingham slate, and get Richard back on the throne. I'm tellin' ya, the lines out side the precinct at Runnymede that day was pretty long. The actual polling place was in the Priory of St. Mary's just down the road from the old Ankerwcyke Yew, a tree that was then about, oh, call it 1,700 years old, even then. It was under that tree that the old Saxon kings used to have their meetings and pow-wows, called the Witan Council. And that's why we made John sign the Magna Carta under it, too. (A couple centuries later I introduced Anne Boleyn to Hank 8 [as we called him] under that tree; what a mistake *that* was, lemme tell you. But that's another story for another day.)

I was working for the Locksley bunch and some of the barons, doin' a bit of this and that, tinkering, jestering, translating Latin and Saxon into English (well, what we called English back then, tho' it tweren't as you'd know it today).

It was Big Bob Fitzwalter and Locksley who got me involved. "Mudge," he sez, "you're wot might be called an educated sort of cove. 'Ere, wot we needs is a bloke like you can read and write while me and some of the other barons hash out wot we want bloody Johnny to sign. We're meetin' under the Yew Saturday; how 'bout you come along and take notes, sort of write up what we vote on and agree to, and slap t'gether some sort of eddycated document and well put the sword to John's throat until he signs it, 'ere, wot do ye say, lad?"

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | November 4, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

(Part II, dodging the 500-word limiter)

So that's how I got involved in what some might have called...well...treason, taking notes for a bunch of pi$$ed off landowners and toffs, who gimme one vote and a couple of quid for taking notes and keepin' track. Oh, and we had a mighty fine wrangle under that tree, I can tell you, and the biggest piece of it all was Clause 61, the so-called Security Clause, the one that set up a council of 25 barons who could, if necessary, overrule the king [course, to do so they'd have had to capture a bunch of his castles and such, but they had the power to do so, so clause 61 t'eren't somethin' to mess with].

Oh that was a fine mess, that was. The barons got ol' John to sign it; it was the first time anybody'd ever put some restraints on a king. And what happened? Soon as the barons left town John renounced Clause 61, and next thing ye know, we're in the middle of the First Barons' War. It lasted about a year, and then John died of dysentary, essentially pooped himself to death in Lincolnshire, and the war was over.

And yes, we made a lot of changes and amendments to the Carta over the years (the 1297 version being the main version you guys know today).

But anyway, that was the first time I ever voted. And then after you voted you pinned on a little ribbon and went into Long Mede to the Starbucks, where ye got a free cup of mead and a joint of meat from the serving wenches (and more, if you wuz polite).

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | November 4, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

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