It all started when my son helped his wife to apply for a passport. They were both employed in Ahmedabad then and were living in a house rented in his name. Her id proofs showed her home address in Patna. She hadn’t changed her maiden name after marriage. She being an employee of a new generation bank had little time to spend in the passport office. Hence they decided to apply online. In spite of the hitches she didn’t have to spend much time in the passport office while submitting the required documents in person and lo and behold she got the passport document delivered to her within three weeks. She was not present at home even when the police made enquiries with the neighbours. Awed by the smoothness of the entire experience my son asked me to apply for a passport online and get it without difficulties. There is a saying in Tamil “Aannaikku arram enral kudiraikku kurram illai”, meaning “It may be arram for aanai(elephant) in Urdu. But it doesn’t follow that it is kurram for kudirai(horse). I was only to realise it in the coming days.
I was a branch manager and asking for leave for going abroad was more than a nightmare, especially since my sons have no intention of taking up permanent jobs abroad. So applying for a passport did not find a place even in the end of the list of my priorities. But as usual my son won over me and made me say yes. My daughter in law joined him in luring me saying we could plan a trip to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand etc. I had just retired voluntarily from a nationalised bank. My second son was employed in Bangalore and my husband was in inspection department, touring north India. So I had no reason to be in Trivandrum where our home is. I went there to produce the original certificates at the passport issuing office in person on the appointed date obtained through the net. My son had assured that as in his wife’s case there won’t be many who have applied on line and therefore there would be a separate queue for such privileged people and I shouldn’t be foolish enough to stand in the general queue. Undeterred by seeing atleast two hundred people standing in front of the passport office in the scotching sun with no roof above their heads I coolly went near the closed shutter with the hope of getting inside as soon as it opened. The security staff standing there told me to stand in the queue. I was not moved. I said I had applied on line and so didn’t need to stand in the general queue. But he pointed at the notice board which stated that passport applications are accepted only through the on line mode from a specific date some six months earlier. It dawned on me that in God’s own country that is Kerala, which is far ahead of the rest of the states with 100% literacy and zealous gulf aspirants combined with IT professionals, the passport applications must be much more in number than in other states to warrant that requirement. I was left with no option but to go back to the end of the queue which had become much longer by now. Atleast forty persons were wiser than I to stand in the queue soon after arriving at the office after me.
Well, that was only the beginning of the ordeal not the end. After standing for about an hour in that queue and obtaining the token the real wait started. I was expecting some guests at home for lunch and the hopes of going home in time for the lunch leave alone preparing it I made alternate arrangements to receive the guests. As for my lunch we were thrown out of the office premises when the staff took their sweet time to have their lunch and I had to do with whatever was available in the nearby petty shop. Atlast my token number was called at 4 p.m and the climax unveiled. After scrutinising the documents presented by me the officer asked me to produce of the marriage certificate. I said it took place more than thirty years ago and the practice of registering a marriage was not in vogue then and during these thirty years no one not even my employer had questioned me or refused to accept the fact as stated by me. The officer looked at me as if I was a person from the stone age but said politely, “Nothing doing. If you want me to accept your application either produce the certificate or an affidavit duly notarised.” Mind you, it was 4 p.m and the document had to be presented by 4.30 to merit the officer’s scrutiny on that day. Otherwise I had to go back to square one and repeat the entire waiting on another day. Left with no easy option, I somehow managed to get a joint foto of myself with my husband and paste it in an affidavit duly notarised. Well ,I was able to meet the deadline just in time with only a few seconds to go. Thank God they accepted my application and gave me a receipt atlast. All is well that ends well(not ends in a well as my father used to tease us whenever we used this phrase) you might be tempted to say. No, my dear only the first phase was over.
The guests,pleased with my hospitality(?) left and I was left alone at home. My husband was busy touring the wesrern pats of the country in connection with his official duty asking me to join either of my sons in Ahmedabad or Bangalore as soon as I received the passport. Easier said than done. My elder son said the police verification would follow soon so don’t leave Trivandrum till that is over. The official website states that the passport will be issued within three to four weeks so don’t leave home now, my net savvy son advised. I had from the beginning decided not to grease any pals nor approach any influential contacts for the purpose and it only follows that the entire procedure moved in snail,s pace. It took a month for the police to arrive for verification and another three weeks for the police report to reach the passport office. (Thanks to my Net savvy son who kept tracking the file movement through the net and updated me on a daily basis.) All this time I hardly slept well in the nights as I was not used to staying alone. Atlast the passport was issued and despatched according to the passport office. But the postal authorities denied having received any cover containing the journal number mentioned by the passport office.(This again was being tracked by my son with the help of the net). It turned out that the passport authorities under an arrangement with the postal department generated the said journal number at their own office and their duty ends there. To lift the covers physically is theduty of the post office and it took them five sweet days. Thanks to the time of the year—it was the hallticket season for the numerous entrance exams conducted in the country and the post office men took their own share of time and I received the cover posted in the city by speed post after seven days. Thus I practically experienced all the slips there can be between a cup and the lip. Thank God all these slips didn’t break the cup and I finally received the passport document in tact, thanks to my Net savvy son and my never ending patience. Looking back, obtaining such an important document within three months of applying is not bad after all. Thank you passport officers.
I shall come back with my experiences of visa if I ever apply for one and if it turns out to be atleast this interesting. Bye for now.