Too Good To Be True

June 10, 2011

So you remember how our last expedition to the passport office ended, right? We had to get letters from the agency with the kids’ photos pasted on them, which we’d got very quickly – by Monday, in fact. But it was Thursday evening before I managed to really make up my mind to go to the Passport office the next morning. And that meant, on Thursday night at 9.30, Amit was out visiting our neighbours and getting their consent to put their names and addresses on the Personal Particulars Forms. We filled up the forms – two per child – and even managed to find out their height without waking them up from sleep. As to eye colour, we weren’t very certain. Amit said brown, but I thought black. The other particulars weren’t too difficult, with one minor exception – Applicant’s signature.

Four year olds, even if they are close to five than to four, can’t sign. So presumably we would need to put thumb prints. This posed two problems. First, neither one of us knew which thumb (or finger, for that matter) needed to be printed. I was under the impression that it was the left thumb, but I couldn’t swear on it.

In any case, it was irrelevant, because the other problem was that we didn’t happen to have an ink pad handy. When it’s 10 p.m. and the kids are going to go to school at 7 a.m., taking their thumbs along with them, the chances of getting one’s hands on an ink pad are rather slim, and so are the chances of getting the required thumb prints.

It’s most frustrating when you have firmly made up your mind to undertake a tedious chore, to find that you will not be able to do it. So when I had packed the kids off the school this morning, and Amit had found his way home after tennis, we wondered whether we should to ahead anyway, without the thumb prints. The Personal Particulars forms didn’t actually mention anything about a thumb print. Amit checked the online version of the form and found that it did mention thumbprints – left for males and right for females – but the forms we had had been given to us by the Policy Section of the passport office, and they didn’t mention thumb prints. Could we just sign for the Applicant and be done with it?

Amit called the 1-800 number, but we had to wait till 8 a.m. to get a person on the other end. The person said, of course, that thumb prints were required. I had picked up my laptop case and was almost out of the door heading for office when Amit called me back. “Let’s try anyway,” he said.

So off I went, expecting a long drive, a long wait, and not much joy at the end of it.

The first two parts were as expected. I waited in queue from 9 till 10. I got token number 139 and 140 – quite a bit worse than last time. I entered and whizzed past the waiting hordes straight to the Policy section, where there were only two people ahead of me. I showed the letter, and was told to go to Counter 10 on the first floor and get it uploaded. That took a quick five minutes. By the time I got back to the Policy section, there was a queue of 20 people. The security officer took my form and pushed it through ahead of whoever was at the window. Then I spent half an hour or so sitting at the edge of my seat, waiting. At last, the name “Nayantara” was called. I jumped up.

“The particulars for both applicants are the same,” said the woman at the counter. “Are they twins?”

I confirmed that they were twins and sat down again. Five minutes later, “Nayantara” was called again. I jumped up again.

At this point, there were four people at the window. Two or three had been called, and one was the person who was actually being served at the time. Security was trying to get some people to clear away, but the women behind the window wanted all of us there. One woman looked at me and said, “The passport is sent for printing. It will be delivered to you.”

I gaped at her. Was she really talking to me? They hadn’t seen the originals of the letters yet. They hadn’t asked for the Personal Particulars form. They hadn’t pointed out a hundred problems in the forms, including the lack of the thumb impression. They hadn’t said Police Verification would be required in Pondicherry and Bangalore.

“Um… it’s gone for printing?” I asked, stupidly.

“Yes,” said the woman shortly. I could see that she was mentally moving on to the next person.

“How long will it take?” – I needed to keep her talking while I thought of what else I should ask.

“Two weeks.” Still thinking of the next person.

“I don’t have to do anything else?”

This time she actually looked at me, as if to say, “What are you, stupid?” “No,” she said.

As I stumbled off, still in a daze, it occurred to me to wonder if they had processed Mrinalinee’s passport as well. They hadn’t mentioned her name even once. But that, of course, could be because they didn’t know how to say it – they saw the M and the R and they got worried and went on to the next name, which has nicely alternating consonants and vowels and which, moreover, is the name of a Tamilian actress, or so I have been informed, and therefore perhaps not such a strange concoction to them.

A couple of hours later, Amit checked the status on the Net. Both passports were shown as approved today and sent for printing. If all goes well, we’ll have them in hand in a couple of weeks. It’s hard to believe, what with the missing thumb prints and everything, but this might just become a reality sometime soon.

Still,  we’re not celebrating just yet. You never know – another trip to the Passport Office could very well be written into our future.

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Renewing an Expired Passport – Part 4

February 14, 2007
My previous blog entry on this matter covered Part 1 and 2. Part 3, which was to be appended later, found brief mention in an unrelated (or at least, not directly related) blog entry and here can be cursorily summed up as: got passport by mail. Normally, the story should have ended there, but – such is life – it suddenly picked up the thread several weeks later. I got a phone call from the police station. The cop wanted to know if he could drop in and verify me. For my passport.

I informed him that I had I already got my passport.

“True, but I still need to verify you,” he explained courteously, and went on to ask my convenience!

After a couple of false alarms, he did finally land up on our doorstep one Sunday afternoon. He had already requested me to keep some photocopies and photographs ready, and I had them in my hand, hoping to hand them to him and see the last of him, but no: he settled himself in the only chair in our living room and fished out a sheaf of papers.

Over the next 20 minutes, he slowly and meticulously completed his paperwork, asking me questions and diligently noting down my replies. He conversed with me entirely in Kannada and to my own amazement I managed to stumble along, replying mostly in English, but at least replying appropriately (I guess – because he didn’t get any thoroughly confused looks on his face like I have sometimes caused in my effort to speak my father tongue, Bengali).

That Sunday was one of Amit’s (rare) “get-it-done-and-do-it-now” days, and when the cop came, he (Amit, not the cop) was sitting on the floor in the kitchen doing battle with a recalcitrant drawer in the kitchen cupboard. He (again, Amit, not the cop) was, of course, thoroughly disgracefully dressed in tennis clothes (T-shirt and obscenely short shorts). The whole scene amused the cop no end and he smiled and made some comments to the effect that the man of the house should not be sitting on the floor and that, mind you, he often did have to fix things at home in like manner himself. Or that’s what I understood him to say, though honestly, my knowledge of Kannada is so rudimentary that he might have been commenting on the weather, for all I know.

Perhaps because of my attempts to converse in Kannada, or perhaps because of Amit’s comely attire and homely task, the cop seemed quite pleased with us. We, likewise were extremely pleased with him, because he did not ask us for anything, other than a glass of water and a stapler, which he used to staple his papers and then politely returned. Of course, as I had already got my passport, he did not have much of a basis to demand anything, but it was nice to see that he didn’t even try. He even went so far as to explain, apologetically, that the police verification process had been delayed as the papers had been sent off to the wrong police station. (This was quite understandable; strangely enough, though our nearest police station is not even 1 km away, the police station that our apartment complex belongs to is several km away and not connected by any clear logical or geographical link.)

My proficiency in spoken Kannada fell far short of allowing me to make any polite conversation with the cop, but, as he was leaving, and once it was clear that he was not going to make any unwelcome demands, I ventured to give it a shot. “Sunday’s not a holiday for you,” I asked in ungrammatical Kannada. “No, no, no holiday, in fact it is the best day for doing this work because most people are available at home,” he replied cheerfully, as he waved a sheaf of passport verification forms at me and disappeared.

Again, I conclude that the Bangalore police force, much-maligned though it is, is not all bad.


Renewing an Expired Passport

November 14, 2006
Part 1 – Figuring Out What to Do

This, let me tell you, is not easy. The website gives scattered, incomplete, and sometimes contradictory instructions. My favourite was:

           If <something something something>

           And <something else>

           Then <do this>

           Period.

If not, or if this but not that, then go figure, cos this website is not going to tell you what to do. In the particular instance that concerned me, the first If was: “If your passport has expired;” and the second If was: “If it is not a Bangalore-issued passport;” the Do This was: “Get a Verification Certificate.” Now this is important, so make a note of it.

Other contradictory instructions were of the type, “Get one attested photocopy of all the following documents,” and “Get only two copies of the old passport,”

Regarding such minor matters as fees, the website is delightfully vague: it lists fees for new passports, for various corrections to be made, and for sundry miscellaneous conditions. It is left to you to decide which category renewal of an expired passport comes under and what fees are applicable.

Then there’s information that’s not really available on the website, such as that photographs should have a red or blue background only – well, it is there on the website, but it takes a great deal of perseverance to find it, because it is buried somewhere under all the debris mentioned above.

If your criteria exactly match mine (viz. an expired passport originally issued outside Bangalore and therefore requiring address change but no other changes) then you might find the answer to the puzzle at the end of this blog. On the other hand, my answer might not work for your question, even if it is the same question, so if it doesn’t – don’t sue me!

If you’re thinking – isn’t there someone I can ask questions to, well, I don’t know, but you could try the FAQs on the website. I didn’t find them terribly helpful, because I followed them as far as I could but still went wrong.

Part 2 – Submitting the Form

This is a tedious, time-consuming, frustrating process, particularly if it starts (as it did for me) with a prolonged hunt for an auto willing to take you to Brunton Road or even to MG Road or nearby areas (what is it with these auto drivers?). Plan to spend half a day. I’m not sure if arriving early makes it quicker – I reached around 10.15 and found a queue on the verge of spilling out of the gate and on to the road! The good thing is, it was very orderly and there were two cops restricting access into the building. The queue moved fast enough and in an hour I was in the building. (If you think that’s long, you should have seen the way the queue snaked around the courtyard and to the gate – I thought it would take several hours!)

The first thing to happen is that you get a token stuck on your application – and my number was 210! I went on up and into the hall and found that they were currently serving 136. The hall was spacious and had lots of chairs, several of which were vacant. The bad part was that at each of the six counters, there were people crowding around in a haphazard manner. Towards the back of the hall was another queue. “What’s this queue for?” I asked the chap at the tail end. “For emigration,” he replied. Well, since I wasn’t planning on emigrating, I went and took a seat, though I did think it strange that emigration should be happening here (don’t they do that at airports?).

After a long time, someone next to me informed someone next to them that they would have to go stand in the queue at the back before going to the counters where token numbers were being processed. This someone turned out to be right. The queue at the back was for “arranging” the papers. They take your bunch from you, rip things apart and put them together in apparently random order, throwing out some stuff and asking for others. To my great indignation, they threw out my Verification Certificate which I had gone to such lengths to obtain! I argued with the chap that this was required and would preclude the need for police verification but he withered my protests with a ferocious glare and waved me away.

In due course, my number appeared on the electronic display and I pushed my way through the crowd at Counter 3. Here, they demand to see originals, and then send your papers to an officer at a desk just behind the counter. There’s one officer for two or three counters, and he processes the forms in rota. There seems to be no system for sending applicants away and calling them by token number once the processing is done; instead they just call out the name of the applicants when the officer sends the paperwork back. Since there are over 200 people in a big hall, it’s no wonder that those waiting for their names to be called are crowded up against the counter. I added to the crowd and waited breathlessly for my application to be processed.

The officer at the counter made some notes on the “For Office Use Only” sheet of the application and sent it back. Then I paid up and got a receipt that gave me a phone number and SMS number to follow up on the status of my application. Two and a quarter hours of waiting in queue and I was done!

What I Found Out the Hard Way

  • Having read all the instructions on the website, compile a set of all the documents you need, all the documents you think you might need, and all the documents you can think of that you don’t think you’ll need. Just in case.
  • Make at least two copies of every document, three if you want a copy for your own records. Though it is not clearly specified in any of the web pages I saw, they really will ask for two copies of everything. There is a photocopying shop outside the building (and what a lot of money he must be making!), but after waiting over two hours in queue it can be really frustrating to have to rush off and get copies. Luckily, they don’t make you stand in queue all over again in that event, but it might be difficult to get your turn at the counter, if your token number has been called while you were away.
  • You don’t need attested copies if you are going in person – just ensure you have the originals with you.
  • You don’t need a verification certificate if you are not applying for Tatkaal.
  • For re-issue, the instructions ask for two photocopies of your old passport. I was inclined to take just the relevant front and back end pages, not the whole passport, but Amit advised me to take the whole damn thing, just in case. As it turned out, they rejected all the inside pages and kept only the front and back pages.
  • The fee is Rs 1000

Part 3 – Getting the Passport

There isn’t a Part 3 right now, but there might be, if the police verification and the process of actually getting the passport in hand turn out to be interesting.


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