I now have a new shiny passport with a really strange picture.
Here’s what I learnt through the process:
1) Never ever lose your passport! Do not carry it with you for identification purposes, lest some evil soul steals your bag – ’cause the mountain of pain to follow is so excruciating that it might well be termed a ‘life changing’ process; you’ll be marred, scarred, irritable and exhausted beyond measure.
2) If you do end up having to apply for a new passport be prepared to encounter the holy trinity of Ps in the A ; the passport office, the police station and the post office.
3) Do not assume that there is anything such as a ‘Tatkal’ service, things are only relatively tatkal – meaning instead of one month, if you really really tried your passport might reach you in ten days time; but wait; the fee you paid was for ‘3’ days delivery – yes sir! Well it did take three days – three days to make, another three days to dispatch, another three days to travel from post office A to post office B (four km apart!) and another three days to reach in all probability, except they forget that really ‘determined’ people have voices that can shout.
4) Be prepared to discover that the climate consistently conspires to make you perspire; also be prepared to discover that all vendors conveniently located near the passport office will only sell thirst enhancing fizzy drinks, not thirst-quenching water or juice.
5) Discover the joy of bribing police men to write down a complaint and blame the bribe on ‘the boys’ who will get the job done.
5) Learn how to keep your patience with impolite passport officials who express surprise at your ignorance about passport procedures that change once every ten-days without any public announcement.
6) Meet Mr. PIS-ON (yes, that is gross), the ‘Passport Information System On Net’ – which is accessible only to the holy passport officials. Further, discover how the inefficiency of the PISON can help you in unfathomable ways- for example, solve a complicated issue with a non-expired passport that is wrongly declared expired!
7) Discover how absurd regulations like a photo copy of a lost passport is required to apply for a fresh one, or how an under secretary is required to vouch for your character, or how affidavits are prepared with ruthless efficiency in the informal market or better still how you have to self-attest the authenticity of your own documents!
8) Be prepared for an unpleasant three days between which you will have no clue where your passport is – the undocumented journey of the local post across four kilometres.
9) Understand that applying for a passport is a valuable experience because its the closest you’ll ever get to living a cross between a Salvador Dali painting and a Kafkaesque nightmare.
10) Be prepared to let out delighted whoops of joy when you dash across dusty roads in a rickety vehicle (with a poised pen-tip) to reach home and sign for your passport finally, where an unwilling post man is held hostage by a family member dangling currency notes.
This is what hell must be like, no?