For all those who think, this is about the struggle of a married woman. It is.
Disclaimer: This article does not intend to thrash patriarchal society. It does not even try to describe how personal life is connected to state or point out the flaws in the governance structure of the country. It only details my experience at the Passport Office.
After sleeping at 2 am in the night, I struggled to wake up at 6. To my own surprise, at 7.15 I was cooking breakfast and lunch for myself and my partner (being wife is not that simple after all). By then, I had freshened up, bathed, got ready and packed my stuff. (No! I am not a superwoman)
Both of us travelled to Delhi from Sonipat. We are lucky to have a luxurious car and good chauffeur to drive us conveniently. That day, Sahil decided to take the Delhi Metro to meet Mr Anil Swarup, while I took the car ahead to visit Passport Seva Kendra at Shalimar Bagh.
I reached there at 9.33 am and my appointment was at 10.15. I took a nap and called my bhabhi in that waiting period of half an hour. At 10 am, Deepak (driver) asked me “Ma’am kitna time lagega?”
I replied “Bhaiya, aadhe ghante se jyada nhi lagega! Aap chai pee lena!”
Till then, LIFE WAS SIMPLE.
I met a Guard at the gate, he verified my appointment letter and the lady checked me in. I went inside to the ‘Tatkaal’ window. Waited for 15 minutes, just to know that I need to have photocopies of my passport and address proof. Fortunately, they have a photocopy machine installed at the office. I waited there for another 10 minutes only to copy wrong documents. This, I realised after standing at the ‘Tatkaal’ window for next 10 minutes. However, the fault was my recent marriage and lack of knowledge. By then, I had lost my water bottle and slipped the phone twice. At the very right moment, my father called. Went to the photocopy waale bhaiya, got the needed documents, re-visited the window and lady there with a broad smile says “Wait kiijiye aapka naam bolungi” and I replied with a bigger smile “Thank You!”
After 7 odd minutes, someone shouted my name, I rushed to her, went to another block of office, gave my documents at the token window, the officer kept my document on a chair and vanished. She came back after 17 minutes. My token number was T7. After 13 minutes, my token number with counter number flashes on the screen. I ran inside, got my documents verified, got a picture clicked, scanned my fingerprints. This ended with the office pointing at the TV Screen, “Iss par aapka token number flash hoga, B ya C cabin par wha chale jaana!” and I replied with a smile “Thank You!”
After 19 minutes, T7 appears. Maybe, one of the biggest happiness of my life. I went to Cabin MEA2. The officer verified same documents and said “C cabin ke liye token flash hoga” and I replied with a smile “Thank You!”. After 4 minutes, I got cabin C3. Officer checks same documents, looks at the screen and says “Aapko toh VCR chahiye hoga”. Bewildered, I waited for T7 to appear again.
By now, I was irritated, hungry and thirsty. As my token appeared, I went into APO1 cabin and was asked to wait for some time as I failed to hear my name while they were shouting it in the crowd of 60 people. I went in again at 12.24 pm. They explained me VCR and gave me an option of issuing a VCR or police enquiry. As I started calling my father to know what to do, they asked me to wait outside till the token reappears. At 12.40, I communicated what Papa had told me. Around 12.50, I met the officer at C3 again who asked me to come next time with the VCR Certificate. At 12.55, a guard at the exit gate gave me a slip which says, come anytime between 9 am to 10 am from Monday to Friday.
(You must have realised, precision in my timings – obviously, I had started noting)
As I exited the door, Sahil was waiting for me. I really wanted to vent out but could only say, “This needs to change”.
The number of cabins, the amount of hours spent and the lack of information on the type of documents needed. I know it is easy to crib sitting in our comfortable places, but this time, we got a taste of it. It was not easy. The way it is executed definitely needs to change.
The entire process of displaying a token and a counter number was effective. We were happily astonished on receiving emails and SMSes reminding me about my appointment at the office. Also, the fact that some steps have been made online. But I am sure, it still requires lot more changes. Verification of documents should be made online. Steps to the entire process should be reduced. Lethargy among officers also delays everything. No wonder! there is a reason why ‘dalaal’ system is successful.
Well, what was I doing at Passport? I got married on 21st of Feb. So to add my new address, my surname, my relationship status and Spouse’s name – my ration card, PAN Card, Pass Book, Aadhar Card and Passport needs to be re-issued. I wonder why is it compulsory to have your surname in the official documents, or having it at all. Not having one, can be a step towards ‘casteless’ society. At a personal level, we can choose not to opt one. I believe ‘Name’ is enough for an identity instead of ‘First Name’ and ‘Last Name’.
So, for all the girls getting married soon or planning to, Shaadi does not end at vidaai or homely affairs. It goes to government offices as well.
P.s. Status of my passport is ‘Pending’. Next time, I will carry a book, some biscuits, water bottle, earphones and a portable charger. Because struggle is easier with a company.
P.P.S I cleared 5 stages of Cut The Rope Magic while waiting at the passport ‘seva’ kendra.