We have owned the apartment we live in for about seven years. We have never paid property tax on it. I’m not quite sure why this is so: Amit just thought we didn’t need to and I never thought about it at all. And actually, why should you have to pay tax just because you own property?
Anyway, a couple of months ago, Amit suddenly woke up to the fact that we DO have to pay property tax. Since then, it’s been hanging over us like a Damocles sword, threatening to slay us every Saturday when we try to work up the enthusiasm to tackle the task. Once the 31st March deadline had come and gone, we could breathe easy. The next deadline was 30th April, which gave us another whole month to procrastinate over it. Meanwhile, in the course of some diplomatic negotiations of the kind that frequently occur between man and wife, the responsibility for this onerous task mysteriously got dumped on yours truly.
Since I’m not the kind of person to let grass grow under my feet, and since it has already been growing for six years, unbeknownst to me, I charged off to pay the tax at the first opportunity. I had no idea what this involved – and Amit failed spectacularly to brief me – so I went armed with ignorance, the sale deed, a largely blank form (the scariest looking form I have EVER seen, full of entirely incomprehensible jargon and asking me things I had absolutely NO clue about), my cheque book, and a truckload of determination.
I reached Mayo Hall a little before 10.30 and spent some time getting pushed from pillar to post. One chap (in an office right next to the public toilet, and looking like part of the said public toilet) spoke to me in English, ogled my cellphone, chastised me for not reading Kannada, gave me a cellphone number to call, and told me to go to the Koramangala BDA Complex. I called the cellphone number, and the fellow told me to go to Mayo Hall and then cut the call before I could tell him that I WAS at Mayo Hall. I got pushed around a bit more, coincidentally bumping into my cook, who was trying to obtain her Election ID card. Several people told me to come back after 20th/24th/28th of April because they were busy with “Election duty” – when all they seemed to be busy with was chatting and drinking tea. So why, I demanded belligerently, are you people putting large ads in the newspapers urging us people to pay our property tax NOW, if you actually want us to do so only after the blessed elections?
That, of course, was a waste of breath.
One chap took pity on me, so I put on the poor-little-lost-girl act for his benefit. He took me under his wing, marched me into the Manager’s room (only to find that the Manager was still enjoying the long weekend break), calculated the tax for me and scribbled it in my still-largely-blank form, watched me write out the cheque and scribbled the cheque details in the form, then marched me to the counter where I could make the payment for the arrears. He spoke to the person behind the counter in Kannada, assured me my work would get done, just as soon as electricity came back, left me there and disappeared. I had thought that he was some kind of tout who would ask an exorbitant fee/tip for his help, but apparently he was happy to do it for free. It’s hard to believe.
I hung around for 45 minutes. Electricity, in fact, came back in about five minutes, but there was some problem with the UPS, so just that particular computer that was needed specifically for my work was not coming up. I stood glued to the spot for 45 minutes (I could actually feel the roots growing under my feet), and at last somebody fixed something and the computer came on. The fellow stretched out his hand to take my papers. I handed him my scribbled-on form. He returned it and asked for the receipt. I explained that I had never yet actually paid tax, so I didn’t have a receipt, so could he kindly accept my cheque for arrears and issue me a receipt? Pretty please?
No. I had to have a receipt and if I didn’t have a receipt I should have an order and to get the order I should go back to the other office and get one and without out he couldn’t take my money. No. No way. No.
I don’t know too many people who take kindly to being jerked around, but I know that I’m not one of them. I don’t like being jerked around and I don’t like wasting 45 minutes only to be told that they can’t do something that they could just as easily have told me 45 minutes earlier they couldn’t do. My truckload of determination rapidly turned into a truckload of frustration which I was just itching to dump on the fellow’s head… but I somehow gritted my teeth and walked out and went back to the other office.
By this time it was close to 12 noon, and the Manager had finally showed up. I went and put my case to him. Guess what he said: We’re busy with election duty, come back on 28th April. Several of his staff smirked behind me, saying, clearly enough, “I told you so.”
The Manager went on to add that if I hadn’t been in any hurry to pay my taxes in the last six years, surely I could wait another couple of weeks. I told him that since I only came in to do my duty once in six years, it might be another six years before I came again. But that’s no skin off his nose so he sent me away with a shrug and returned to his “election duty”.
And home I came, having achieved nothing other than a significant spike in my blood pressure. Sigh.