The Revenge Of The Brits

Ever wondered why the British finally left India without another war? No not just cause they had the whole let’s divide the country thing down pat. Oh no no… they had something viler up their sleeves – the red tape. Don’t believe me. Head over to the nearest Indian Passport Office in whichever part of the world you live in.

Of course like any internet savvy human being living in the 21st century you will visit the relevant website – in our case the service provider’s website. When you go online you will find instructions spelt out in mind-numbing details. One of which reads that photographs of the applicant should be taken wearing light dress against a light background. The photographs are taken and the forms filled up in triplicate and the proofs of residence and general existence obtained. You then head to the passport office early in the morning on a working day (so that you can avoid the Saturday rush) and find that people are already queuing up at the first counter to get a number token and you are stuck behind a family that seems to be renewing the passport of all its members. Needless to say, after a while when you finally reach the head of the line and the lady behind the counter decides to take a bathroom break. Alright. You are ok. You are an understanding human being. When she returns she looks at your application form and says she cannot accept it. Just like that. She does not even look through it. Why? What did you do wrong you ask! You should wear a dark outfit and pose against a light background. But…but… the online instructions said light dress against light background you blubber. You even show her the printout of the instructions. She shrugs and shows you the standard form that the passport office has. It says dark dress against light background. You grit your teeth and head to the adjacent office to get snapped.

Then you peel off the six old ‘light dress’ pictures from the forms and glue on the new ‘dark dress’ pictures. You then return to the queue, get your token and sit down in the waiting area for them to call your number. The time is 8.30am. You wait and wait and wait and then wait some more. There are eight counters to handle the applications. Three of the counters are manned or should one say womanned. But of the three counters only one of them is handling passport related applications. The other two could be working for the Central Bureau Of Intelligence for all the difference it makes to the increasing number of applicants walking into the tiny office every second. For every one person whose work is completed and who leaves the office, another ten walk in.

From a manageable 30 odd people waiting at 8am, the number has now increased to nearly 150 by 9.30am. You are still waiting. Godot has come and gone, but not your number. Finally at 9.45am your number is called. You go to the counter and you are told that as per the new rules (which of course are not mentioned online) you have to get more than one proof of your new address in your hometown. As you stare at them looking like a dehydrated fish in a desert, they tell you ‘But, there is a loophole’. God bless the red tape savvy public servant! The lady will tell you that you won’t have to go to all the trouble of getting additional proof, if you just change the form and not bother to mention the new address but go with the old address.

You will feel naive as you mention the small fact of a police check-up at the address mentioned, so that the government can be sure that you are staying at the said address. And then you will feel like a complete dunce when she smiles and condescendingly says, “but everything is done on the web now saar. No one goes to the address to do any checks. If the address is the same as in the old passport then no problem.” You smile weakly, take new forms and fill them up in triplicates and then remove those ‘dark against light background’ pictures from the old form and stick them on the new form and submit the whole dang thing.

Now you only have to wait for 40 odd days for the wheels of Indian bureaucracy (now on the web) to spin and turn and spit out the booklet that tells the world that you are a proud but rather tired Indian. And the more you think of it the more you will be convinced that all this is the doing of the British. I blame Lord Mountbatten.

10 Ways To Avoid Writing…

This comes real easy to me –  avoiding the moment when I have to stop thinking about writing and actually writing it. Almost as easily as those vague, ephemeral ideas that would turn into blockbuster hits… if only I could get around to putting pen to paper. I just realised that I may have, unwittingly, come up with a system to put off writing – surprising given that as a student I always turned in my papers on time. Being an organised kind of person I thought I must put my methods down on paper.

1. I go to the gym or go for a walk. Anyone who knows me knows that I abhor the thought of exercise. But having to write is a scarier thought.

2. I decide to cook. I am not one of those who love to cook. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate it. But I don’t love it either. But when I am staring at a blank screen, somehow the wok calls me loud and clear.

3. I watch crime series. I watch re-runs of crime series. I watch re-runs of crime series in Arabic. I don’t know Arabic.

4. I re-arrange the furniture.

5. I check FB for the 100th time in 30 minutes.

6. I read a book.

7. I do the crossword.

8. I think of how life would be if we were living in New York and plan a life there – just in case we move there in about 5 to 10 years.

9. I clean the kitchen chimney.

10. I check FB again. Nothing new. What is everybody doing?

11. I start writing.

Turn the lights out!!

Why do couples fight? In our case, and we have been married for nearly nine years, it is over stuff like not turning off the lights while warning everyone else about the high electricity bills (him), being lazy and not wanting to go out anywhere (me). But the main things we fight about other than ‘I don’t get enough sex’ and ‘you don’t talk enough’ are –

1. Expired Food Items: He likes to throw them out a week before they expire, while I use stuff for a year after they expire. No one has died after a meal at our place yet. He thinks I should change my ways before such an eventuality. I think why fix or replace something that ain’t broken or rancid.

2. Shedding: The second thing we fight about is shedding. Not me, he. He sheds hair, clothes, tennis bag, newspapers and files. He thinks it is human nature and inhumane to have a pristine home. I think it is criminal to have hair lying around.

3. Crumpled Sheets: Ever seen a man make a bed? There. That must say it all. On occassions he has gone so far as to make a bed. I wait until he is out of the room (don’t want to hurt his ego after all) before I make the bed again… properly.

4. Cricket: Don’t get me wrong. I love a good cricket match. But when my home country India is playing. I would never sit through a a replay of a test match played by Zimbabwe in the 1990s.  Hubby darling would… with complete rapture. Not only does this mean that our conversation is limited to ‘what’s there to eat’, ‘look at that shot’ or ‘what is that idiot doing?’, it also means that I don’t get to watch NCIS LA and CSI Miami (I love crime series and the actors who play the cops) and my daughter is growing up to be a cricket fan. This I cannot forgive.

Our friends (who have been married for 17 odd years) assure us that in a few more years we will settle down and accept each other and then the fights will reduce. Now that is a scary thought. For all the arguments and jibes and the desire to toss something heavy at the bitter half, these fights are the moments that help us get to know each other and ourselves better. Also there is nothing like a good fight to clear the air and bring the zest back into a marriage. And like all the good things in our lives, like support for each other’s careers and dreams, respect for each other’s families, the shared bond of being a parent, these arguments and fights are also our constants. I can just imagine our daughter telling her boyfriend or husband or whatever about the silly tiffs mum and dad have had forever over expired goods.