The newspapers blazed with ads of all the minister’s smiling mugs, proclaiming Bangalore to be the new icon for passport purposes – all computerized – smooth process – no waiting - passports in 3 days – child-friendly -no hassle to citizens. I beamed more than the ministers. Time to get the kids their passports and renew my own and my mom’s. With NO hassle.
Now, reading between the lines, this is what it really means:
1) New scheme : You are our latest guinea pig! The post office staff supposed to helpfully supply these services looked blank, said they didn’t know what I was talking about and made me buy stamps for standing in the queue.
2) 3 days : It takes over 3 weeks to get an appointment to even apply for a passport under this scheme online – and wade through crashing systems. If you are one of the poor paupers who needs to go stand in the queue, please go the previous night, with idlis wrapped in newspaper, for the passport office to open the next morning.
3) No waiting : We waited for 4 hours, along with others who had brought tons of tiffin and tons of relatives.. Finally had to whine my way in, saying I have 2 sick kids, 1 handicapped mother (she walks with a stick – ha!) and got a chance – after the guy took pity on S, who looked like a normal person stuck in this circus.
4) Child-friendly : Niks,(who unlike the other toddlers who sat and sucked their mom’s sari pallus for 4 hours straight) ran away and got lost when his turn came, then fell onto the camera, and got the fingerprinting stamp ink on to everything else in sight, and insisted on giving the data entry operator a star on her official document. Neel sat and complained to an elderly lady on the other side, about the weight on his 6-year-old shoulders of monthly tests at school.
5) Smooth process : We needed to go through 4 separate levels, some desks manned by grim TCS hires, and some manned by boiled potatoes.
6) No hassle to the citizens : Hahaha – excuse me, while I choke over the coffee that I had to fight off 15 people in the queue in the ‘smooth process’ for!
Did I mention they also fingerprint you and take your photograph on the spot? So, I had done my hair, and put on an apricot shade of lipstick. 4 hours later, when the pic was finally clicked, I ended up looking like Ozzie the Orangutan on a bad hair day.