Musings: One too many GOs made you run from pillar to post? Sometimes the only way to preserve your sanity is to go funny-side-up

If you’ve ever looked at the mirror and doubted your good looks, let me suggest an unusual way to restore your confidence: go to a GO. I mean a government office. To accomplish anything more complicated than paying a bill you’ll need to show ’em your face repeatedly. They’ll clamour for your presence, appear so enamoured by your countenance, that you’ll come away convinced you’re the most beautiful creation on the planet. At the very least, Deepika Padukone.

Your fans, sitting behind rows of wooden or metal tables, may wear unfriendly expressions but remember this is a ruse. Their little hearts are leaping with joy as they silently sing, “Can’t take my eyes off-a you”. When they mumble “Dacuments yella thakondu banni” it’s just an excuse to continue enjoying your company, for they’ll only reveal what these documents are at the rate of one per visit. Sometimes they spread the good news to other GOs, “Psst, I’m sending you this dish, make sure everybody gets a chance to ogle.” This is when you have to mark your presence at multiple GOs to get one job done, and since in each GO so many people are panting for a glimpse of your fair face, what more do you need to feel like Deepika Padukone?

Not in the mood for sarcasm, eh? One too many GOs made you run from pillar to post? Well, you have my sympathy, for I’ve travelled in the same boat. Sometimes the only way to preserve your sanity is to go funny-side-up. If you don't you might burst a blood vessel, as this neighbour of mine nearly did while he delivered a passionate lecture to me the other day on how the only reason why the government splits a process into three parts is to give more employees a chance to split the bribe. Weary of haring from one GO to the second to the third to complete the registration of his flat, he suggested somewhat unrealistically that every transaction should be in the form of a bill, which should be paid at one and the same counter. By the way, it’s been years since I heard government sources mention the “single window” catchphrase that was once so popular.

My most recent affair with a GO has been with the passport office. Loyal readers aware of my profound distaste for filling forms may be relieved to know that I finally did apply for an interview at said office, but not without a great deal of brotherly hand-holding. “I’ve become a call centre,” he declared a tad huffily as he took me through the process of online submission in baby steps over three gruelling hours at the end of which I was in urgent need of a stiff drink. This particular GO had recently wooed the public by opening up 20,000 interview slots (reminds me of those ‘mass marriages’), which was the only reason I could manage to schedule an appointment. But the office is displaying all the familiar signs of lovesickness. Any moment now they’ll compose a shayari about my chehra. Here’s why.

My previous passport was dead and buried a quarter of a century ago, and since it cannot be renewed I chose the “fresh passport” option. I turned up at the appointed time, got a token after my documents were verified, and was marvelling at how swiftly (in just 45 minutes) I had entered the cubicle to get photographed when the man asked me pleasantly, “First time applying madam?” I casually mentioned my ancient passport. His finger froze on the button. He scrawled “reissue” on my papers and I was out on my ear. At the Enquiry counter I learnt that not only had I to reapply under the “reissue” option but I also had to prove my change in marital status. “Fill Annexure D,” said the man. It was for Lady Applicants who had changed their name after marriage. Didn’t apply to me. Now I was in hot water because the alternative was to produce my marriage certificate, which I’d misplaced, and to get a copy I would have to go to the sub-registrar’s office, which had shut shop years ago, all documents having been transferred to a centralised office in Gandhinagar. A needle-in-a-haystack situation. A complete nightmare. Fortunately I’ve been able to avoid it because the certificate turned up, but meanwhile I cannot avoid the encore.

To be fair to GOs, they’re not the only culprits; private Os behave likewise. A recent experience. “Leather bags stock coming in two days, madam.” I go two days later. “Tomorrow, madam. By evening definitely.” To make sure, I go at night. “Tomorrow certainly.” I get the man’s mobile number and call next morning. “Load is coming from Gandhibazaar, it’ll reach by afternoon.” Surely it shouldn’t take all day for a van to traverse the city. I go late evening. The man is outside the shop, peering into the distance. “They said it will come now.” I run an errand nearby and pop in again, just before closing time. No show. Next morning I get a call: “It has reached, madam.” And I finally pick it up. Did you keep track of how many visits that makes? I confess I lost count.

And could someone recommend a less stressful way of feeling like Deepika Padukone?

(Send your feedback to ckmeena@gmail.com)

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