I am trying to apply for a passport. Update an expired passport, to be precise. Below is my tale on my quest to achieve the same.
A little history here to get things into perspective- Why did I need one?.
You see, my parents were smart people to realise that a passport is one of the 100 million identification documents to you will need eventually in life in India. But unfortunately being an early adopter in this regard is not the greatest idea as the validity of an Indian passport is as equal to the average execution time of a 5 year Plan, ie, 10 years. I was 8 when I had taken it and if my math serves me well, expired just as I had become a legal adult aka 18. Perhaps my parents were under the impression that I would suddenly become a medical child prodigy say like Doogie Howser at 14 or a chess prodigy like Kasparov and go all over the world displaying my God given genius. Unfortunately, my biggest medical breakthrough was biting off my toenails without infecting them and my biggest chess achievement would be figuring out that the horse is the only unit that can jump over other units.
Normal Vs Tatkal Mode
Ever since everyone in my family, and my extended family , some Centenarians and even animals have been abroad with a valid passport. So, now weather there is a reason or not, I needed to obtain one. But , recalling the trouble & time I had with getting my drivers licence, I realize that getting a passport would be akin to cutting the guardians knot.
As I logged on to the passport website https://passport.gov.in/, going through the application form and the number of annexures and sub annexures required , it reminded me of the first time that I saw the periodic table being explained to me by my chemistry professor.
Apparently there is the tatkal system even in getting passports , a system which I thought existed only in the railways. Tatkal is a term I never understood, but closest understanding of the same is when people go for ‘tatkal’ , its like the last resort, no turning back option. All tickets sold out in the train? No problem. Tatkal it and lo!, a seat magically comes out of the heavens for you. Some poor $#@$@ was either thrown out or they decided to do with 1 less railway official. Need that new Apple IPAD that you’ve been waiting for like 2 months, but its sold out? No problem, just get it through tatkal. Steve Jobs will personally ensure 1 more is shipped out for you. I never could figure out how it happened.
But the pitfall of going for the tatkal scheme is that you will need every government authorized legal certificate issued since the day you were legally born. From you birth certificate , to your failed report card , your ATM receipt taken from any SBI bank to even your probable death certificate and a written letter stamped and signed b y the entire batch of IAS officers from the year of your birth , the list is endless. Much to the dismay of my agent, I told him that I would like to take the non tatkal aka normal route of getting the passport. He grimly informed me that not only would this entail a loss of over Rs 2000 in ‘agency commission’ aka the bribe to be paid to the respective officers at the passport office , but would ensure that I would go through bureaucracy hell in the passport office before I came out successfully. Being not the one to be intimidated by a small time agent, I put up a brave face and told him to inform the passport office to bring their worst. They did.
Final Destination- The Passport Office
As I was headed towards the Passport Seva (Ironic huh ?) in the auto, I was thoroughly lost. As I kept asking random pedestrians the way to my destination, I could see the sympathy and pity in their eyes as they pointed towards to my final destination.
Now, to be fair, the office looked pretty modernized with its clean floors and organized seating arrangement.
To sum up the entire process of getting the passport, once has to go through the reception>counter A>Counter B > Counter C > EXIT. Every round is an elimination round.
I have summed up the entire process with the help of a simple Flowchart.
A clip from Asterix at the 12 tasks where he has to get a Permit- Form 38 A from a Govt office.
Lifes Like that