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To whomsoever it may concern, there is no life sans certificates

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar  

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We live in a world where even a known truth is not accepted unless a ‘competent authority’ issues a certificate

A long time ago, as a student of literature in college, I dreamt of becoming a famous writer and made bold to send my first story to a popular magazine. I was thrilled when the publication, after a long wait, sent a printed memo of acceptance of my work. But the devil was in the detail.

The letter asked me to send a signed certificate confirming that the work was original and unpublished. My youthful ego felt so hurt and humiliated by what I then perceived to be a questioning of my integrity that I did not send the certificate.

As a result, instead of becoming a writer, I ended up as a bureaucrat. Pretty soon, I discovered that we live in a world where even a known truth is not accepted unless “certified” by a “competent authority”.

First, you will need a certificate to prove that you are born to your parents on your date and place of birth. Your parents need a certificate to prove that they are married. And when you die, someone will have to certify that you are, well, dead.

Living to tell the tale

Through phases of life from birth to death, this requirement for certificates arises several times. If a pensioner, you need to produce a “life certificate” at least once a year to prove that you are alive.

Only a “responsible” person like your bank manager, a gazetted officer, a legislator or other such “competent authority” can issue it. Every November, you will find pensioners queuing up at bank counters, fumbling with pen and paper, to submit the certificate.

Another vital document much in demand is the medical certificate. It’s perhaps the simplest way of earning your wages without doing any work. If you need a holiday and your boss is not willing to give you leave, all you need is a medical certificate. It does not matter if the boss sees you picnicking or shopping with your wife. The old saying “seeing is believing” does not hold good here.

As long as the certificate says you are sick, you are presumed to be sick, at least for official purposes. But mind you, once you have been certified as sick, you can’t just get up one morning and go to work saying you are back in good health. You will need to submit a fitness certificate from the doctor who issued the medical certificate.

Of all certificates, one that bruises ego and self-respect is the “character certificate”, essential for any job or admission to an educational institution. Again a “competent authority” like a gazetted officer or an MP or MLA (even if some criminal cases may be pending against him!) has to issue the certificate. If you do not know any such exalted person and fail to get the certificate, you are presumed unfit for employment or higher studies. Perhaps then the only option is to join a political party, become a lawmaker and issue all kinds of certificates to your buddies!

Though I have survived 88 years of a life full of sundry certificates, I regret that I was unable to become a writer by not issuing myself a simple certificate. Nevertheless, as I am approaching the end of my journey, I fear that Lord Yama may demand some certificate to take me to heaven.

madanmathur@gmail.com

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 2:17:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/to-whomsoever-it-may-concern-there-is-no-life-sans-certificates/article29992849.ece

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