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.