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Two weeks back on the 8th this month I had begun the process to renew my passport. I was hoping that 10 years since I applied the process would have evolved. I don’t know if its become more safer in terms of security screenings but since the last time I applied, every individual has to come to the office personally to present the application. Agents are no longer accepted. That’s a long way from the days when agents would be standing outside the passport office and claim to deliver the passport to people in a week’s time. And people have to come to understand that their passports in wrong hands could be misused. Regardless, I have certain experiences in this current attempt of mine that I thought I should share with everyone.

First and foremost, I would urge people to go their respective passport offices and talk to the passport officer concerned about the process and documents involved. It will save you a tonne of time. In my case a good part of 14 days. I cannot say much about the chief official at other places but in my district the officer is very good and helpful if the individual himself presents the questions to him, rather than smother him with official pressure.

Well it all started two weeks back when I had taken my first appointment date on the 10th. I compiled all my documents for application for a standard application process. This includes primarily, address proof to ascertain that my address on the passport since my last application had not changed. As I had moved to Taiwan in ’09 and worked there, I decided to be honest enough and put the taiwan address into the application, against the advice of some folks at home. Since, I was in a hurry to get a renewed passport, I wanted to apply in Tatkal (expedited service). This is where I rue, not approaching the passport office directly to inquire. But going by the online documentation in the passport office website and on suggestion of some of the people around me, I ended up bumping from one government office to another to get the required documents specifically needed for tatkal. This includes a verification certificate from a ranked government official.

This is something I wanted to talk about a little. This so called verification certificate essentially states that the official signing has looked at the documents and knows me to have a good character and he “stakes his reputation” at the information I have provided him about my present and permanent address and my qualifications. This got me to bump between atleast three government offices. Through a person who knew me, who knew some one in these offices that could give me this verification certificate. I understand the purpose of this document. But how many people in this country can apply this way? It is incredible that only some people from the government office of a certain rank can be trusted to give this verification. How many government officials would a common man know who can give this kind of certificate. It includes people of the rank of Under Secretary of State or central government, Deputy general of police etc. Honestly, after looking at that list, I started to wonder, do I need to build contacts with these people. Fortunately for me I knew someone who knew someone, but it is a state of affairs that needs to be properly addressed. At the moment it looks like a possibility for a privileged class of people in society fortunate enough to know them. And it just doesn’t feel right.

Anyway, on the way to getting this certificate I had a chance to step into the government offices, where the bureaucracy of my country flourishes and finds strong roots. I visited government offices from my district all the way to the Mantralaya (Maharashtra State Government Office) in Nariman point. I can safely say there isn’t much difference between these different places. They exist and operate with the same modus operandi.

After spending 12 days on this worthless operation, I was all set with my verification certificate for an appointment on the 17th. A day after my birthday. I was excited and quite confident that I had the best possible chance of getting the passport renewed. That morning I reached the office about half hour before and got a token number of 45. Oddly enough I felt the Gods were in my favor too because the number (4+5=) 9 holds a great significance for being auspicious for an endeavor. I had read the Vishnu Sahasranaamam (1008 names of Lord Vishnu) to seal the deal with God. Incidentally I was reciting it for the first time in almost a year.

With the mighty hand on my head, I stepped into the counter confident of being done in less than 15 minutes. From there started the most disheartening of days since my return. First the lady at the counter refused to accept my application because there was a small tear in my passport. Thanks to a guy a the immigration counter at the Newark, NJ airport. She asked for an additional 1500 ₹. for damaged passport charges. I was distraught. I did not have the money at hand. I had a total of 3000 ₹. (2500 for application fee + 500 additional. )  and some change for travel. Now I realized that this lady was just merely taking advantage of my ignorance and extorting money from me. Anyway, I rushed out, after running around for 20 minutes, located an ATM machine that was working and withdrew the necessary money and headed back. Only to know that I needed more copies of my documents. After two more trips to the local XEROX (photocopy) centers, I managed to ready all the necessary material. Submitted signed sealed, and next step was to get a signature from the passport officer (PO). So I got into the queue to go to meet the PO. After 20 minutes, I was directed to see the PA (personal assistant)of the PO. He noticed the blunder in my application.

That the verification certificate gave totally different present address compared to my application form. Incredible isn’t it. I was immediately booted out. In my desire to have an honest application process, I failed to exercise my mental faculties. Which sane person would testify and verify that I lived at so and so address in so and so country for the last one year. Well needless to say, at this point I was beyond dejected, I was at a state where I was absolutely certain that I was cursed, that any task I undertook was bound to fail. After 12 days of senseless torture for a verification certificate, i was in no better shape due to my own folly. All I could do was go back home and wail in my own agony.

That afternoon I slept very peacefully, knowing fully aware that my work would never get done :). After which I made another application appointment for the 22nd. This time however, I decided to visit the PO, and explain to him my case. To tell him that I did not know a government official who can give me a verification certificate and I was on my own for applying for a passport in tatkal.

Within the minute he saw my application, he told me, I don’t need any additional documents since I was carrying a valid older passport. He asked me to go on my appointment day and apply in Tatkal. He also told me that the tear in the passport was insignificant and that there was no need for applying for a damaged passport. I was delighted beyond measure. I had finally done the one thing I wanted to do from the very beginning. So yesterday I submitted my application and was informed that I would get my passport within the week.

So, now, I go around telling people, not to be foolish as me, and follow and do the right thing. Present the case honestly to someone and there will always be a person to help out with a solution.  Now I am waiting for my new passport, so that I can apply for the UID card Govt of India has recently initiated. Hopefully my recent struggle would have indicated to me to stop and think before making any step that I am unsure about. Well, if not me, hopefully someone who has decided to read this entire babble would take the moral and apply more effectively in their lives.