It’s true I haven’t mentioned it here for a while, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten all about my quest for a khata. Over the past couple of weeks, I went and applied for – and got! – the Encumbrance Certificate. I can’t tell you what it actually certifies, because it’s in Kannada, but at least I have it. It wasn’t difficult at all to get. One day I went and filled out a form (nothing complicated compared to the Property Tax form) and paid some money (for which I got a receipt). That took all of 20 minutes. I went back on the appointed date a week later to pick up the certificate. It was ready and waiting. That took all of five minutes. No waiting, no pestering, no hidden charges. Fantastic.
I ordered the draft for payment of the Khata fees and worked on the Khata application form – also not too daunting to an experienced form-filler like I was by now. Then last week I went back to the Ward office to submit the application. On my first attempt, Mr M wasn’t there, and B told me to come back the next day. On my second attempt, Mr M was there; he took one look at my papers and told me it had to be submitted at the dreaded Mayo Hall. If you’ve already read about my recent experience at Mayo Hall, you’ll know I was not thrilled to get this news.
However, what cannot be cured must be endured; or, to put it another way, if rape is inevitable, better sigh and get to it. So off I went today, application, supporting documents, and bank draft in hand, prepared for another “from-pillar-to-post” ordeal at Mayo Hall. To my surprise, it wasn’t too bad. Or perhaps I’ve now managed to adjust my expectations to more realistic levels.
I reached just after 10.30. The office I’d been told to visit had one person already seated at his desk, meticulously drawing ruled lines on bits of paper and occasionally in a ledger or notebook. (By the way, ‘Khata’ literally translates to ledger or notebook, and also to the accounts kept in one – I think. In Karnataka, it is an all-important document which doesn’t actually prove ownership of a property, but which everyone treats as though it does.)
In a few minutes, a woman appeared. She was quite helpful and told me, in English, to wait for a certain other gentleman who had access to the stamp that was required. Meanwhile, she checked my papers and asked me to get them notarised. By this time, I’d been waiting for half an hour or so already, and the required gentleman was expected any minute now. So I went to the appropriate section of Mayo Hall at top speed, nodded at the first tout who approached me, and showed him my papers.
“Eleven pages,” he said.
“It’s three documents,” I replied indignantly. “How does number of pages matter?”
He nodded readily and said “Rs 300.”
“Rs 100,” I countered, firmly.
“Rs 200, special discount for you,” he said, without flinching.
“Look. There are hundreds of others who will notarise this for me. Rs 100.”‘
“Rs 150, last offer,” he said.
“Wait here,” he said, taking my papers and walking off.
Nothing doing! I followed him to his desk, where, in ten minutes the eleven pages were signed, sealed, and stamped.
“Do you have the originals?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said, nodding to my document case. I didn’t offer to show them to him and he didn’t ask.
I returned to the former office and waited another half hour. The lady took pity on me and offered to sign the receipt for me without stamping it. I hesitated, and the offer was quickly but graciously withdrawn. Damn. Maybe I should have taken her up on it.
After I’d completed about an hour waiting, one of the other officers came over to me and asked what I was waiting for. I told him. “Oh, I’m the case officer for that, I’ll do it,” he said promptly. And five minutes later, I was done.
Of course, I should have been pissed off that I was made to wait for some mythical person who apparently was not required for my work… but I was just happy that my futile waiting had been only about half an hour or so. If you can go to a government office, get your work done, and get out in an hour, I guess you should count yourself lucky.
The next step is to follow up with a name and a number written on the receipt. How long will it take to get the khata? I don’t know – I was only told that there was a backlog of files pending from February, due to work having been held up because of election duties. So I wasn’t given a date or anything – just a name and a mobile number.
If the kids hadn’t already done their utmost to teach me patience, I don’t think I could have made it this far.
This quest is something like a treasure hunt in the mist: you don’t know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, or what you’re going to find there, and you can see only one step ahead at each stage; but you believe there’s some treasure at the end of the road, whenever and wherever that might be.