My passport pages were all finised so I needed to get a new one. Appointment was on Tuesday, the day when husband has off..thank God! cause in our Indian government offices anne ka time patta hota hai.. Jane ka..unki marzi ..
So here I leave my son and have hours to myself to finish this boring job. I pack a book, water bottle, phone, battery powerpack, wifi connector and head phones thinking I will sit and watch my unfinised movie while waiting.
As I reach the office it is pouring, I see people waiting outside drenched, some pants folded till knees, some holding umbrellas and many seemed like they were hugging this very dirty building, trying to take cover in its narrow shed.
I reach outside the office 15 minutes early as mentioned in the form. The security person asks me what is the time of the appointment? I tell him. So he tells me to come back at the exact time. I ask ” but the form says 15 mins early? He insists ” exact time”
I go back to my car, read my book. Back after 15 minutes. The same security person checking my papers, tells me ” you are 15 min late.” Now it was time for him to hear some bashing…
Its pouring, the rain noise and the chaos outside the office is quite loud so I raise my voice more for the effect. I look him in the eye, remind him ” did you not tell me to come at the exact time when I asked about the 15 mins rule…now let me in cause its your fault..” he checks my papers in a hurry and I enter the passport office.
Due to the rain the floor is wet and muddy, it is overcrowded, smelling of moisture, lack of aeration and people’s sweats. I am half wet, my bottom pallazo is wet so its looks like a shaded crumpled lungi. I go and stand in the line to get my token number.Things are moving slow.
In the line behind me there was a young couple, newly married, the boy was constantly bragging… He was on and on, on how great he was and his main words in the long conversation was ” I am toh.., I will not allow, I toh gave him one slap, They called me to question, I toh told them… On and on, 5 minutes were enough to tired me out. I think he was bluffing and to me he was giving an impression of a gunda. But the girl seemed more stupid than she looked, she went on encouraging his stories in awe and would ask really? Then what… Now? Wow.!!.. Oh the conversation was funny and boring at the sametime. And then a thought accrued as I continued to listen to them..”they dont know each other… They dont know basic things as he tells he he dosnt like rice, he threw it when his mom made, she says I know me too even I don’t like it ( baby you have identity crises if you are going to validate him at every statement , God help you) and they are married.. What tragedy! .. What guts! Well that is our Indian arrange marriage..
Finally my turn comes and I get my token number. I enter the other area. Much cleaner, air conditioned properly well lighted. They make me sit in the waiting zone. I am about to take out my phone to finish my movie, a person incharge of the waiting area scolds an old man, ” kitli var kehvanu( how many times I tell you) no mobiles. I look around and slide my phone back in my heavy purse, now for no reason I got so many gadgets. Now a long wait and nothing to do…
From this waiting zone I have to clear zone A..B and C. Like the levels of a video game.
What does a full time mother want to do? When she has sometime away from her child, read relax, enjoy music, enjoy quite time. I left my book in the car as it was raining.. No phone so there goes my music.. And it was chaos with little children crying and throwing tantrums as there was no special line for them, poor children. Poor me as well, here i am instead of listening to crying of one child who is in his terrible twos here there are 4-5 crying children.
Ting..my token number on the screen..I enter zone A.
This person takes my papers, starts scanning them, types extremely fast, with so much pressure on the key board, I bet his keyboard would get broken once in a week. I realise he doesn’t even acknowledge me. As he clicks my picture he is still looking at the screen. All this time my female ego gets a bit offened. Now the finger prints time… Right thumb, left thumb, right fingers, left fingers… Press them properly.. Ok and then something goes wrong with the system. This guy gets annoyed he just pushes his chair away rushes away, tells his collegue to take over. This girl makes me repeat this procedure 7 more times… Everytime it is done system doesn’t save.. now my thumbs and fingers are paining. Finally saved in system with some sytem engineer helping out.
Now zone B. Again a wait.. Ting.. Token number on screen I reach my assigned table. A very grumpy madame checks my papers. Marks somethings tell me to go back to zone A.
I felt like I am in a video games my life is killed and I am back to level A. All over again…phew! Apparently grumpy madame saved me cause the earlier level A people failed to notice that my earlier passport had a running usa visa and that would cause a problem later.
Again level A.. Level B done..wait for the final level C.
During all this wait I notice a really obnoxious fellow continuously staring at me, first thing I checked my clevage, phew! All in place.He looked like a villan from a south indian movie, gold bracelet, gold rings, white shirt with big red checks, not only was it tight he must have worn his younger brother’s shirts as sleves where so short may be 2 inch long, first two buttons open. He had worn a thick gold chain with locket with some type of sun and mataji on it. Not only was his stare hard to manage but I thought his mataji was also staring at me. When someone is continuously staring at you if by chance you look in that direction by no intention of your own your stare meets. That would happend every time I looked at the screen to check my number he thought I was looking back at him..eewee… we women are complicated sometimes ( yes I will write sometimes) the earlier guys did not notice me I felt offended this one is staring I am getting irritated.
Ting … My token number says go to chief officer..what the hell??. Fish…
As I wait outside her office door for her to give me permission to enter. An overwish fat man rushes in with his wife following him and tells her,” madame here are my papers give our passports fast, softly whispers “we can settle in some sort of..” Madame is confused,” what?” He tells her “zone A says on screen..patavo ne” madame screams, calls security and gives him the last warning to follow the line..I was in shock and laughter at the same time, as security is scolding that man, madame checks my papers and signs.
Finally zone c and exit , I walk out as I have won a battle.
After some 4 hours which feels like a whole day exhausted I go back home.
I get a message from husband that son slept off and he has put him to sleep at my moms. Nice…
I go to my parents, hungry with exhaustion, I find this packet of channa chor garam. Add onions, tomatoes, coriander, lemon and eat sitting on the indoor swing at my parents.
As I am swinging to and fro eating, this dish it takes me to memories of my childhood. Echos of the chana chor wala who use to come at my mama’s place every evening around 6 singing “ghaarra ghaarra babu lelo chano chor garam…” ( as I write this, even today I can clearly hear his nasal voice and the tune of his song in my head), I would wait for him, the minute I lisen to “gharraa” i would sprint to get rs 2, sometimes I would run naked feet if I could not find my sleepers(flip flops, what we call today lolz) I would stand curiously observing with those two rupees in my palms as he would cut onions and tomatoes, mix, sprinkle masala,squeeze lemon on his palm so save the pits from falling, toss the channa chor in air and wrap it in a newspaper packed.I never wondered if he use to wash his hands. Sometimes I would share sometimes I would eat alone sitting on the otla(stone bench) and watch around aimlessly eating chana chor garam from the newspaper packets which is almost wet and part torn by the time it is all eaten up.
After eating, I take my nap next to my mom and my baby. Lucky me after such an chaotic day I eat my favourite snack and got a good sleep, I must have dreamt about channa chor 😊