On my way back to Dhaka from Srinagar, I feel my heart not rightly placed, something as if lost, an antidote of what few days back I was rejoicing for, while travelling home after 8 months stay at Dhaka.
In my run up to ticketing counter Terminal- 3 at Delhi Airport for receiving boarding card for my onward journey to Bangladesh, fresh in my mind is the last hug from my mom, the final wave from papa that I still carry along.
A nudge from a passerby shook off the passport from my hand down on to the floor and its cover got detached. I was not hurt; cover I thought could be attached to the passport with a bit of a gum paste and got up to the ticketing counter.
To my surprise, the boarding card is denied and I’m told to stand well clear off the queue. My fault, my passport with a detached cover. Arguably, I had a strong case, provided anyone listened. I cried hoarse till I lost my voice and watched everyone in the queue pass by. My classmate friend ‘Sara’ tried a lot, but could not do just enough, dropped few tears for me and walked away in the serpentine queue – so important for me to be in. Exams are round the corner and my academic carrier as 4thyear MBBS Student is in jeopardy. Trying again and again to put the cover of the passport with the rest part of it, though of no use I knew, would still bring some solace to see it in one piece though I lay numb in some corner of the hall thinking about my exams. Should I tell my Papa about all this or else what to do? My phone is not working I just feel myself on an island. Someone, in the meanwhile asked me to leave the ‘Departure’ site and I am now out in the open. Scorching heat, no one around, and nowhere to go. Somehow, however, I gather myself and ask a woman on duty nearby, if she can lend me her phone for a second. She looked at me and then at my attire and said “sorry”. I tried my luck yet again with another person and this time could make a call to my Papa. “Beta kahan ho”, I cannot hold my tears back and he missed a breath. “What happened”? I was silent but he heard. “Stay put there till I send someone to you”. Braving heat and hunger I wait, and wait for “someone” I do not know, for something I cannot think of. Suddenly I caught sight of a tall figure, so pleasing on eye and glaring in the crowd- my papa’s friend ‘Ishtiyaq Uncle’. Got some life and blood back in me with a return ticket to Srinagar. I knew it is like taking a direction against the course of my life but then could I afford aspiring more than this and got on board quickly. Landing in Srinagar, was not a joy right now, retiring onto the rear seat of my papa’s car took me to a different world. Cut to next day morning, we stand in a queue in front of passport office Srinagar. On our turn we try to convince everyone across the counter that the passport is not damaged just has its cover loosened out from the stitch. However, got the same standard answer from every quarter- “Apply for fresh one”. “But the process will consume at least a month and a half, means a year lost for her.” My parents kept on pleading. “We cannot help it” is what they get in response. An appointment was sought with the Regional Passport Officer, as our last ditch effort. My mom is restless. She gets up and asks an employee for a yard, offers ‘Nimaaz’ over there and comes back rubbing her hands. The bell rings up and a call for us. We enter the office and walk up to the officer in chair, put our application across the table and watch him go through it, down till end. A gentle shake of his head, we took for “No”, left us couched in the respective chairs. The bell rang again and a person entered in, “Yes, Sir”. The officer lifts his head towards him and says “What is the time right now”. “Sir 3:20 pm”. “I should see the fresh passport for this girl on my table maximum up to 4:20 pm or else ………! At 4.17 pm my passport is ready.
At the end of the day my Papa had to cough up Rs.51000/- extra in the form of ticket cancellation/rebooking. The procedural wrangles leading to delayed executions, is perhaps the outcome of this trust deficit between the policy makers and people at large. Unlike in many European countries the citizens here end up paying more for securing their just and legitimate rights within an acceptable time frame.
Given such a scenario upright officers like the one mentioned above can make the life easier for us.
I know of a Kashmiri origin family in Italy which recently lost gold ornaments worth INR 41 lacs and the insurance claim was settled across the counter. The insurance company in complete acceptance of their claim issued a cheque for the whole amount in favour of the claimant within the first 5 minutes of their lodging it. Can we wait for the day, when it happens here as well?