lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Policeman's knock

There are moments in life that are surreal.

There was huge tension and worry and angst but my son got a Tatkal passport and went off to England to engage some of the brightest people in the world in a parliamentary debate. (Dear Reader, thank me for sparing you the saga of visa applications and stolen mobile phones and mix-ups in travellers' cheques.)

Some five days after he went back to school we received a phone call. The Calcutta Police, in their business-like fashion, wanted to conclude verification of our son's passport application. They wanted to meet our son, talk to him, and verify documents. We told them that our son was back in Bangalore and that his passport had been issued.

Two days after my son left for England, the Calcutta Police, Passport Section, called to conduct inquiry and complete procedures. Again, we informed the gent on the phone that our son, alas, couldn't be present to be verified as he was away in the realm of the dreaming spires.

Apparently, even with a police verification waiver that enables an applicant to get a speedy passport, there is still some procedure pending. The police will still conduct their inquiries and submit reports.

Fair enough.

So the voice on the phone asked us keep documentation ready. We complied. Our son's school records, domicile certificate, birth certificate and ration card; our telephone bills, electricity bills and corporation receipts were all photocopied and kept ready for inspection. I decided to be cautious and even made copies of his certificates of merits earned at various chess tournaments and badminton events.

We waited. And waited. Thirteen days after the phone call, came the knock. Yesterday.

Two burly gentlemen from the Passport Section came in brusquely. They must have thought I conduct interviews with police officials in my bedroom, because they tried to barge in there, giving the phrase 'crowding into personal space' a whole new perspective, which they also did, standing too close and following me as I tried to move back. I directed them to our drawing-room, and showed them all the gathered paperwork.

They tsk tsked at all the papers. Where was our son, they asked. I explained that he was away at Bangalore getting an education. I will admit I crossed my fingers when I said that, because though I devoutly hope he is getting an education, I can't really prove that. He might be just enjoying himself and playing computer games and chess and badminton and assorted other sports.

To say that they were dissatisfied with the documents is litotes.

My son, due to lack of foresight by his parents, was born in Madras, before it became Chennai. Then we had the gall to live in Delhi before we became residents of Calcutta in '89. His birth certificate states that he was born in Madras. That was the first thing against him.

The spelling of our surname varied in all documents other than school records, since not everybody notices or cares that we spell our surname with an a at the end. (In Bengal, spelling of surnames is optional, but that is a matter for another post.) He was Mukherjee, Mukherji and Mukherjea variously, in the documents. That was against him too.

They asked if I had given copies of these certificates to the officer who cam earlier. I replied in all honesty, that I couldn't remember. He went through them, that much I remembered. This was against me.

Then came the familiar objection. They can't issue clearance or submit a report that verification was completed, because, ahem, he is not continuously resident here in Calcutta.

Déjà vu.

Then they asked if we would issue a declaration that he is our son and lived here. The Resident Yudhishtira bristled and asked how could police officials ask us that?


Finally, I wrote a declaration that my son is my son, that he is a dependant and a resident of Calcutta, currently in Bangalore for his education. They took it and copies of all the documents and left.They will file their report and folks, that report is going to be bad.

This is beginning to seem like a soap opera.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now we know where the soaps get them stories...

7:07 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

This really is beginning to seem like a soap opera. Do give updates on this, Lali.

7:51 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

ET-, Yeah, they just check my life, and there are all these story ideas...

Ash- Would that I could call this a closed chapter, but red tape intervenes. So this is a saga still continuing. Alas, and alack too.

9:06 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Why didn't you just pay a bribe? Thats what all this adds up to.

10:03 pm  
Blogger Urmea said...

Oooh Lali my dear fellow Mukherjea, I sympathize especially about the spelling of the surname bit.
The troubles I went through (actually I have to say my dear bro did a lot of the running around) getting my last name corrected on every single certificate I have ever been issued!!!
Although its much easier when non-bongs spell it - its my fellow Bengalis who have this preconceived notion of how it ought to be spelled.

1:19 am  
Blogger Priya said...

Soap Opera indeed. And it even has a K in it! A sure sign of success, babe. All will end well, no worries.

11:24 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- WAIL. I don't know how to pay a bribe.

Urmi- Oh my fellow Mukherjea, you are the one person who understands. So you had to correct the spelling on all documents? Commiserating and wallowing in your sympathy, Misssus Em is.

Priya- From your keyboard to the ears of whatever gods are paying attention, babe. Thanks.

10:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh! My sympathies etc. I wish I was there to scare them off. My mother frequently uses me as a scarecrow for such purposes.

As for spellings etc - I empathize. I was born in Madras - and that leads to plenty confusion. Over that, my passport was issued before Madras became Chennai and as a result - when I fill forms I am unsure of writing Chennai. Because they usually verify it with details on the passport.

Add to that - through various years I have become Vishwanathan, Visvanathan, Viswanath, Vishvanath etc and retain my maiden name - which leads to countless queries about husband's name. Sigh!

12:24 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Neha- For Indians, spelling seems to be optional, notional and more. My brother-in-law writes my surname as Mookerjee, and once, in a cringe-making moment, I was Lalita Mukhopaddoi. Sigh!

But this red tape business promises to drag on. Again, sigh.

4:54 pm  
Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

There was a time when Calcutta University would force you to change the spelling of your name or surname by the simple expedient of changing it in their records. No oversight or carelessness, this was apparently a 'preserve sonskriti' move whereby only CU officials supposedly knew how to spell Bengali names and surnames. Do they still do that?

5:17 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

TMM- Yeah, I heard plenty of horror stories about that. My husband has oodles of anecdotes about arbitrary name changes imposed by CU records. I don't know if that still happens, though. Any readers from CU out there? Do write in.

5:45 pm  
Anonymous Prophet of Doom said...

glad your son could make it to the Oxford champ's ... Watch out for another devil on the prowl .. Bangalore is now "Ben-ga-looru", they say ...

1:00 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- Thanks very much for adding another worry to my plate. :-) Will certificates that state Bangalore or Madras be null and void after name changes of the cities, I wonder.

10:49 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. /body>