I’m preparing for GRE. Months of rummaging Barron’s GRE notwithstanding, I need one basic document to apply for the test and more importantly, think about higher studies.
Presenting my passport. Well, there was a small issue. I did not have my passport. You might ask how and why. Simply, I did not bother to think about it as in my 22 years of life as a Chennaiite, I’ve gone past the Vindhyas only once. I was a slacker on this issue. So I decide to apply and start the process through a travel agent my father knew in June after we came back from my cousin brother’s upanayanam. The agent was a bigger slacker. You might ask me again as to how I know that. Well I’m a slacker myself. It doesn’t take you long to identify your breed like it did not take long for a Police official who helped me with the verification certificate to ask me if I belonged to the White Cross community. So the agent, having promised that the passport would be at my doorstep in a couple weeks, started the process on August 19. You might ask me what I was doing in the mean time. I’m as clueless as he was or you are and was naive enough to be taken for a ride on the tram next street. No, I’m not taking you for a ride now. As a matter of fact, his responses were laced with lies which I could fathom only later. Anyway, I had to wait till the first week of September for an interview in the passport office. I get my affidavit and the demand draft he promised he would after much haranguing on September 7. The interview was on 8th. Thanks to the same Police officer who took a minute to look through my face and ask me if I had a white cross over my left shoulder, I get a token almost immediately as I enter the passport office on 8th September, a Wednesday.
Chennai, the city has a lot of landmarks. The regional passport office is located in Sastri Bhavan. My home is located in Sastri Nagar. There ends the similarity.
There are hawkers who sell accessories on the entrance and there is a noisy rhythm to the whole place which I notice because I have to wait for 2 hours with nothing to do. As it’s lunch time, the crowd eases and I go in and take a seat in the waiting hall.
2.00 PM: I’m called to counter C. I’m asked to have 3 IDs. I take my bank passbook, ration card and birth certificate along with the other documents.
3 PM: Going along with the crowd, I get to meet Mr. Passport officer who checks my documents and rejects it for the day on the count of me holding a joint account with my mother. He needs a reference letter from the bank manager. I ring my dad and he being the Superman I imagined him to be as a child, goes to the bank, which is a street away, and gets the reference letter from the manager and starts at 3.30 PM.
4.00 PM: Still no sign of him and I ask Mr. Passport officer if he could wait for a few more minutes. Not a minute he says and leaves on the dot. He asks me to come the next day with the day’s seal and the reference. I call up dad and ask him not to bother. He’s just a man. I go out and ask an auto to take me to Mount Road and the driver charges me the cost of his auto, 90 bucks in this case. I decide to walk.
Spetember 9th: I go there 9 AM sharp and get the day’s seal. It is great to see a crowd of people who are sailing on the same boat as I am. Some 20 of them had their forms rejected the previous day. Striking up a conversation with almost everyone around me, I realize there is a definite hum to the whole place. Hundred and fifty guys in a single room is pandemonium. Amidst all this, people go about their job. “It’s reassuring to see a lot of guys like me waiting tentatively”, I say to the guy near me. “It’s not so reassuring when you get sent back again”, he said. He was coming there for the third time in a week. Touche.
Mr. Passport officer, who left at 4 PM sharp, arrives 40 minutes late at 9.40 AM today. It’s 10.45 AM by time he gets to see my forms for the second time and clears it. I’m a happy zappy guy who heads to pay the DD and sees that there is a winding queue. It takes a couple of hours to go to the counter. I come out of the passport office having accomplished something. It felt like the dawn of time outside. Calm and peaceful.
September 18th, which is today, 12 noon: I get my passport at the doorstep after a 3 and a half month long farce. I can now think about higher studies and it’s relief.
PS: My cousin brother, immediately after whose upanayanam I started the application, or intended to, has had his thala aavani aavittam in the meanwhile and is now able to recite the verses everyday without help.
3.00 PM: As I want to give a gargantuan piece of my mind to the agent, I look into the mirror to see a jackass staring back at me. Sigh.
PPS: The title for this post needs no explanation but I am duty bound to say it was inspired by a friend’s blog.