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.
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.
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.