lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Heartbreak City

It is a cruel world, but I know for a fact, this city is more so. Autumn is a bad time to try and get any thing done in Calcutta.

"You certainly have a bad sense of timing, sonny," I said to my son. He came home on the first of October, and will leave on the fifteenth, and that's the time frame we had to acquire a passport for him.

Let me back up a little and fill you in. My son is a student. He was selected to represent his University in the Oxford Union Intervarsity Debate 2006. He was advised to apply for his passport here in Calcutta. His vacation break is a fortnight long. To apply for a passport, get a verification certificate from the police and then change the application to the Tatkal category and collect the same in this period was always going to be tough.

And now consider this. The first of October, apart from being a Sunday, was the penultimate day of the annual idiocy called Durga Puja. The city goes berserk. Everything shuts down. Government machinery grinds to a halt.

The application was duly submitted when normal life resumed. Then I went to our local police station to apply for a certificate of verification, so I could submit that and avail of the facility of Tatkal, issuing a passport on the basis of urgency.

I don't know any Deputy Secretary/ Director/ Joint Secretary/ Add. Secy./ Spl. Secy./ Secy./ Cab. Secy. to Govt. of India; I don't know any Joint Secretary/ Add.Secy./ Spl. Secy./ Secy./ Chief Secy. to a State Govt.; I don't know any Sub Divisional Magistrate/ Additional DM / District Magistrate of the district of residence of the applicant; I don't know any District Supdt. of Police/Range, DIG/IG/DGP of district of residence of the applicant; I don't know any Colonel and above or equivalent rank in the Air Force and the Navy; I don't know any General Manager of a Public Sector Undertaking.

That above litany is a list of people who can provide certificates saying they know the applicant is of blameless character. I don't know such bigwigs.

But I do know that the police are there to help citizens. So I asked them.

A kindly gent at the station told me that I'd have to apply to the DCP(Don't ask me about the alphabet soup of these designations, please.) at Park Street. So I went there and related my story. A large and placid man at the Park Street DCP offices told me that the DCP was on leave, but if I submitted an application for the verification certificate, they'd try to speed it up; but I shouldn't expect much because the next three days were off days, and I could go back to my local station and ask about progress on Monday, certainly.

Lokhkhi Puja and the weekend. If that wasn't enough Monday was a Bandh. A Bandh called by some political parties, endorsed by some others, taken note of by the government which decided that the IT sector should be allowed to function without hindrance but the rest of the populace can like it or lump it. So on Monday, my bank had shutters down. On Monday the police station was nearly deserted as all the officers were on the streets.

I went back today. The 'Process' office was closed at 10:30 in the morning because they all worked hard the day before, thanks to the Bandh. I was told to come back later.

I went back later. The application had been forwarded and an officer assigned, but he hadn't arrived as yet. I waited. He read the application sent over, he looked at the documents I thought would be enough to prove all my claims. He hemmed and he hawed and he said he would visit the address, talk to the neighbours and do the needful.

He has to send that report to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, and somebody there has to authorize a certificate, issue it and then inform me before I can collect it and use it to try and obtain a Tatkal passport.

Bureaucracy and red tape and all that; this is a city of heartbreak, I tell you. Who should I seek compensation from when that passport doesn't materialise before my son has to go back to school? The mindlessness of religious festivals? The fact that the police are understaffed and thus cannot deal with events and the routine at the same time? That lady who stole a day from my timetable by calling for a Bandh when it was a totally inappropriate response to the issue?

Who will pay for my heartbreak if my son doesn't get a passport and has to miss his chance to debate in some of the oldest Universities around? Who will compensate for his disappointment?

Say a prayer for me, folks.

Update: 11 PM
The officer assigned came and did the needful, yes, in the evening. His report will go to the offices of the DCP on Wednesday, and he suggested that I go and ask about it in the afternoon. Even if I lay my hands on that certificate the same day, nothing further can be achieved, as the Regional Passport Office doesn't function round the clock.

If and this is a big if, and when that certificate arrives, the next round of worry will start- the Tatkal procedure and the impossible time frame. No light at the end of the tunnel as yet. No way out of the tunnel, either.


Blogger neha vish said...

Prayers sent by courier express delivery. Hope it works out Lali!

2:36 am  
Anonymous Prophet of Doom said...

@ Missus Em :

I echo Neha .. prayers sent ... May the force be with you !

7:43 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Neha- Prayers accepted gratefully. Here's to hoping.

Ram- The police 'force' seems to be sympathetic, but that doesn't cut any ice with "Procedure" alas!

8:46 am  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Did the needful involve what I think it means? Wishing your son luck, Lali.

9:18 am  
Blogger Ravages said...

No prayers, but perhaps a whip to help things speed up.

10:46 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- It meant he came, asked questions and examined the documents, talked to neighbours and said he will file his report. That was all. Thank you on my son's behalf.

C- I doubt that will do any good. Alas. And alack, too.

1:28 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Trust me, Lali, you've been plenty lucky. The cops didn't even come to my place for the verification, they sent for me. Then demanded a large bribe and told me flat out I wouldn't be given clearance if I didn't pay. We haggled for a bit and then paid a smaller amount.
They retailiated and didn't give me clearance. AFTER taking the money.

After much trouble, I finally got my passport, only to see they got my date of birth wrong. I just don't have the energy to go get it corrected now :-(

If you got the officer to come, everything else will work out just fine. Trust me. And here's a good luck hug for you *hugs* :D

1:37 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rimi- Thanks Princess. You didn't have this time-frame sword of Damocles though, did you? Tatkal passports are handed over to the applicant only, no proxies. He absolutely has to go back on the 15th, so I am pretty sure this is a lost cause. Sigh.

1:46 pm  
Anonymous F e r r a r i said...

Is it too late for the prayers? Even otherwise am sending it. Can be redeemed for anything and everything :D

4:51 pm  
Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

My husband just applied for a passport here in Bangalore, for which he was shuttled back and forth between the regional passport office and something called Bangalore One which are localised drop-off points for passport forms and other things and in this capacity are SUPPOSED to be a big help to citizens but... yes, I guess everyone knows what that means.

having got that off my chest, all I can say is pray hard. Most of the time these cases are touch and go.

10:24 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ferrari- It is too late yeah, but I appreciate ze contibution to the kitty, very much. Thanks.

TMM- Praying hard, check. Intervention of kind persons may or mayn't translate into anything concrete, check.

Crossing my fingers and hoping, while a part of me is ridiculing the rest of me for such superstitious things. I am getting cramps in my crossed toes, I tell you. :-)

11:42 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

I think you are right this is a lost cause, Lali. It will be a miracle if you manage it. Here's wishing you luck, nevertheless.

Why on earth did you leave it so late?

8:01 am  
Blogger abhorigine said...

I believe in miracles. My prayers.

4:54 pm  
Blogger Brazen Head said...

At least in the old days, you go to this slitheran variety of the human species called a passport agent who in exchange for cash (100 bucks in the 80s, won't even guess what it might be now), will do the "needful" and produce an unblemished passport in 3 days. You don't have to go anywhere. Sit in your house, drink tea and relax. If you pay an extra 50, he will phone periodically and tell you that XYC has sactioned ABC and now it is at EFG's perusal. It is worth the 50 bucks just to hear the slitheran self-importance spoken in the Indian Governmnt english.

Good luck.

(Don't forget, another 5000 bucks, and your son could get a passport saying he is Amitabh Bachhan. I don't know if that would srve his purposes.)

5:07 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ash- It wasn't a question of leaving it so late. It's the idiotic holidays and Bandhs and red tape.

Ram- Thank you. I think all these prayers just may do the needful and produce a miracle.

Brazen Head- Hi. Even these days, there are passport agents who will do the 'needful' and legwork. But not for Tatkal passports. Bureaucratese is a wonderful language, isn't it? Not to mention the alphabet soup of designations. The Regional Passport office has a RPO, PRO, Supdt. Admn and other esoteric designations.

And thanks.

Um, you think I can get a passport saying I am Aishwarya Rai?

5:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is when having an extended family helps. Somebody, somwhere will be connected.

"Never ever go aginst the family"

9:42 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

DNA- Yeah, you always find somebody who knows somebody and all that. Family matters, yes but I have found that a blogging family works just like a real-life family too.

So many of you writing in and wishing me luck is a wonderful thing, I tell you.

1:59 am  
Anonymous ramki said...

Oh, that utter feeling of frustration and helplessness. What's the update? Hope your son got his passport.

12:07 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ramki- Crossed fingers, touch wood and all that. Yes, he did and it's a long story. I will post on it.

7:50 am  
Blogger Bhag1 Behera said...

So finally did ur son get the passport or not?
I am a student of Indian Institute of Technology,Kharagpur.I have been selected for an internship at Barclays Capital Singapore.The company has asked me to submit my passport number within 15 days.So i needed wanted to avail tatkal scheme.
But I don't no from where to get a verification certificate.I got a verification certificate from an Air Force Officer but he could not give me a copy of his I-card due to security reasons.
Plus according to new rules u need an affidavit as well .......God knows what to do about it.
Plus the rush that is there at RPO kolkata,I have returned back twice without even entering the RPO.

4:05 pm  

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