Murphy’s Inverse Law: When Everything That Can Go Wrong, Doesn’t

October 10, 2012

Amit, as he left for a prolonged stint in the Himalayas, promised me a neat and tidy transition, where he would send out a detailed mail telling me all that needs to be done and everything I need to know to get it done. Obviously, said mail never happened. Instead I got one horrible list of things to do with no information needed to do it (e.g. pay these bills, without giving me vital passwords that would be required to make the payment or even to find out the amount that needs to be paid). After that, I got a dribble of mails, messages, and hurried phone calls, giving me a lot of additional tasks and bits of additional information.

One task was – check the status of my PAN card for my company, and when the status says Dispatched, get the packet from the Post Office. Under no circumstances, let it go back to the sender.

The information I was given was a link and directions to the Post Office. Well, I checked the link and the very day after he left, it still gave the status “Under Process”. But – I received an intimation at home that a packet was attempted to be delivered and could not be delivered and could I kindly present myself at the Post Office to claim it? Unfortunately, that Saturday was a bandh; fortunately, I found my way to the Post Office and it was open. But – when they located the packet they wanted to deliver, they told me it was not a PAN card – it was a VPP packet and would cost me two thousand bucks. Well – I had no idea what Amit had ordered for his company, so, assuming it was a genuine delivery that he had simply neglected to tell me about, I paid up. I also waved aside the postman’s directive that it was rubbish and should be returned to the sender. What would he know?

Turns out, he was right. It was rubbish and should have been returned to the sender. It wasn’t the PAN card and it wasn’t anything Amit had ordered and I had just squandered two thousand rupees on it. Oh, well – it goes from the company’s account anyway.

I still had the onerous responsibility of getting hold of the actual PAN card.

A few days later, the status on the link said “Dispatched”. There was a link to another page, where the India Post delivery tracking system showed how it had been handed to the actual delivery postman, and how it had returned due to “doorlock” and that intimation had been left. The time stamp was 6.05 p.m. which was tragic – I had been home well before 6.05 p.m. but had taken the kids to the park nearby. What a miss – if only I had known!

However, I had received no intimation. I didn’t worry too much about that – we don’t actually have a letter box yet, so perhaps the intimation had simply got blown away.

The next morning, at 8.30 sharp, I called the Post Office. It wasn’t the Post Office near home – it was quite another post office. The lady who answered hung up on me once, then twice, and the third time she refused to answer. The second time, before she hung up on me, she told me brusquely that she didn’t know Hindi, which left me puzzled because I’d been speaking politely in English. This Post Office has in the past been extremely cooperative over the phone, even in English.

I decided I’d better dash over there and get the damn packet myself. Or I’d be answerable to Amit! So I dashed, and of course got hopelessly lost. The place that was pinpointed on the online map was a maze of narrow streets and nary a post office was to be seen on any of them. Finally, I asked a guy walking down the street carrying a small packet – obviously a local who’d just stepped out to buy something. He gave me directions completely different from the map, but he sounded like he knew what he was talking about so I decided to follow his directions and completely disregard the map. Which was a good idea, because in less than five minutes, I was there.

Five minutes later, I was speaking to the delivery chap. He shook his head – he had no packet for our address. I told him that if such a packet arrived, he should keep it for me and I would collect it from the post office on Saturday. I adjured him under no circumstances to send it back. Then I turned to leave. Another chap sitting there asked me what had happened. He was the chap who had pointed me to the actual delivery guy when I first walked in – these guys, if you tell them the address, they know exactly whose beat it is. So I told him the other guy said he hadn’t got the packet and he asked me why I came looking for a packet that hadn’t yet been received by the postman, and I told him it was because the website said delivery had been attempted and he asked me for the tracking number and I opened my laptop to dig out the tracking number and if this isn’t a run-on sentence, then I don’t know what is.

Anyway – he entered the tracking number into another system and found out that the packet was, indeed, with the postman and that delivery had, in fact, been attempted.

They asked me for the name of the recipient, I gave Amit’s name. They asked me for the address again, I gave the new address, then said, actually, it might be addressed to the old address and I gave that address too. They consulted another delivery man, who accurately described our old home and then said, Nope, nothing for that address. (And this is not our regular postman, mind you – this is the Speed Post guy who last came to deliver, most memorably, the kids’ passports.) But the second guy, who wasn’t actually my delivery chappie, continued to dig – after all the tracking system said the packet had been returned undelivered, so it must be there.

“Any company name?” he asked.

Of course. I told them the company name and voila – the envelope was found! (Actually, I think he’d already located the envelope, because it was the only PAN card envelope in the stack, and he was just checking if it was mine.)

So why all the chaos and confusion? Simply because the envelope had the wrong address! Of the three digits in our door number, only two were printed on the envelope. “I tried so many times to call this number, but it was switched off,” complained the delivery man, pointing to the phone number on the envelope. Obviously – it was Amit’s mobile number and he’s cooling his heels at Doditaal, dammit.

So, if I’d waited at home for the delivery, like I’d planned to, I’d never have got the packet. And if I’d gone to office, waiting to receive the proper intimation, I’d never have got that either. And if the blasted lady who didn’t know Hindi hadn’t been so rude to me, I’d never have gone to the Post Office, at least, not right away. And if that polite guy in the maze of streets hadn’t directed me so knowledgeably, I might never have actually found the post office, at least not that day. And if that other man at the post office, who wasn’t even my delivery guy, hadn’t been so insistently and persistently interested in helping me find the packet, I’d never have got it at all, what with the wrong address and an unreachable contact number.

Sometimes, so many things need to fall in place for a small thing to work out. The amazing thing is, sometimes, against all odds, they do.

And whenever random strangers take time out to be polite and helpful – it just feels so nice.

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