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Hello, I’m Owen and this is my podcast for Friday 10th May, 2019. How are you all at remembering names? In general, I think I’m pretty bad with names, but when it comes to Indian names, I feel like I have no chance. Most of the names I come across here in India I’ve never heard before and it’s almost impossible to remember names you’re not familiar with . I carry a little notebook when I’m here in order to write down people’s names. I’m not sure I would remember anyone’s name here if I didn’t write it down.
Today, I’ll be talking about why Indian names aren’t just causing  me problems. But, first, I’ll tell you a little bit about my great-grandfather and why I’ve been thinking about him.
You might remember me talking about my 100-year-old grandmother a few episodes back. Well, before I left for India, she was telling me all about her father. He led a very interesting life. He spent a lot of his life at sea. He left home at a young age to become a sailor and worked as a crew  member on large cargo ships  and passenger ships. His last job was on the Olympic. The Olympic was the sister ship of the Titanic. He, like many others, applied to work on the Titanic apparently. The Titanic was the grandest  ship of them all, of course, but, fortunately for him, he didn’t get the job. He did get the job on the Olympic though. I had heard lots of stories about my great-grandfather before but my grandmother mentioned a detail this time that I hadn’t realised. My great-grandfather first left home when he was 12 years old. This was in 1892. He went off to sea when he was 12 and didn’t return home for three years. As she was telling me this, I commented: ‘How crazy is that? Just imagine, these days, sending off your 12-year-old child like that! And not seeing them for three years!’. Well, in the meantime  I’ve come to India and I’ve listened to people tell me stories that are not all that different. Except, of course, that they’re not talking about their great-grandfathers. They’re talking about their own life stories. These stories are not set in the 19th century. These stories happened far more recently. There’s a tailor  here that I go to called Devang. He’s an excellent tailor and an all-round  nice guy. He was born here in the Kutch region in 1964. At the age of 13 – so in 1977 – he got a one-way ticket on the steam train from Bhuj to Mumbai. In his pocket he had the address of a tailor in Mumbai. He spent three years learning the trade in Mumbai, then caught a boat to Muscat in Oman where he continued working as a tailor. From there he moved around the Middle East, then to the Seychelles and finally back to Kutch in his late twenties. He left home at 13 and didn’t come back until he was in his late twenties. Atul is another acquaintance  of mine and he has a similar story. Atul is a goldsmith, he makes beautiful gold jewellery. In 1998, when he was 12 years old, he, too, bought a train ticket to Mumbai. He got a job in a cramped  workshop making gold jewellery. He worked 12 hours a day with 30 other teenaged boys, working and sleeping in the same room. When the boss refused  to pay him for three months of work, he ran off. With no money to his name, he jumped on a train with no ticket, hiding from the conductors for 24 hours until he arrived back home in Bhuj, hungry and tired. He's told me that child labour is very common in the jewellery industry in India. Child labour seems generally quite common in India. Where I am at the moment you see many kids working on construction sites and in restaurants and shops. Those, it’s worth remembering, are just the visible ones. India can really serve as a reality check  sometimes.
We’re in the middle of the 2019 general elections  here in India. Voting started on 11th April and will go on until 19th May. The vote happens in stages. Not everyone votes on the same day and the results of the vote will be announced on 23rd May. Why, you might wonder, does it take more than a month for everyone to vote? Well, let’s start with the numbers: there are 900 million eligible  voters, 543 seats in the lower house  of parliament are up for election and in the last election there were 464 different political parties. Those numbers don’t actually answer the question, but they are impressive. In the past, general elections in India took much less time. The reason it’s taking so long this time is because the government doesn’t trust the local police forces. Instead of having local police secure polling stations , the Indian government is moving federal forces around the country to ensure people can vote safely and freely. There are two major political parties in India. The governing party  is led by the current prime minister, Narendra Modi. The main opposition party is led by Rahul Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi is contesting a parliamentary seat  in the southern state of Kerala. And this is where Indian names complicate  things. On the ballot  in Kerala there is another candidate with the exact same name and a further candidate called Raghul Gandhi. The other Rahul Gandhi is running as an independent, meaning he’s not a member of any political party. Is it a coincidence that two people with the same name are contesting the same seat? I don’t think so. I’ve been told that this is not an uncommon electoral strategy in India. In the last election five years ago, a politician from the other major party running for a seat in the north faced a similar problem. Shortly after he announced his candidacy, ten people with the exact same name as him also announced their candidacies. The candidate from the major party accused the opposition of paying people with the same name as him to run against him. The idea is simply to confuse the voters. Imagine trying to vote and being confronted with a ballot that includes 11 candidates with the same name.
That’s all from me for this month. As always, thank you for listening. You can listen to all our episodes by downloading our app or by visiting our website podclub.ch. Remember that you can also download our vocabulary trainer and you can find us on Instagram. I’ll be back on 7th June. Until then, take care everyone and goodbye.