It all starts with a letter. Letters seem to have become the pivot my life revolves around these days. I open it eagerly, thinking it is the good news of my confirmation of admission into IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University). Good news my foot, the letter states some ‘discrepancy’ concerning my name in my application form. The people over at IGNOU are confused about how my name can be ‘Sakhi Nitin Anita’ and ‘Anita Sakhi Nitin’ at the same time. Such a zameen-aasman ka difference, ya!
So there we are, my dad and I, at the Nashik District Court trying to get an affidavit affirming that yeah, yeah, Sakhi Nitin Anita and Anita Sakhi Nitin and Sakhi Anita Nitin (and all the other permutation combinations you can think of) are in fact the same person, me that is. And when my ‘official’ name is Sakhi Nitin Anita, because of some crappy norm in Maharashtra to put the Surname first and First Name second and Second Name third, my names keep getting jumbled up. Now the first thing that strikes me as I enter the hallowed gates of this Court is the number of people milling around the place. Do all of them have some work here? Seems very unlikely, and soon I start to believe that half the folks here are appointed just to hang around and create human walls obstructing anyone from going anywhere and getting their job done. The sheer number of bodies I have to push past, push away and neatly sidestep (to avoid the *ahem* light brushings-by, etc) is exhausting and frustrating.
Then finally we get our affidavit typed and head towards the notorious Setu office for getting it signed and ‘authenticated’ by the magistrate or someone like that. Now if there weren’t enough people outside, it seems there are even more cramped inside. The queues, I notice, are serpentine but do not possess the quick slithery quality of the aforementioned adjective. They move, instead, at a slower pace than a lethargic snail. Now let me illustrate to you the two points that are universal about any member, big or small, of the Indian Bureaucracy. One, they look down upon you (which is quite literally done, since they are sitting high up in their mighty cubicles) with stony faces which have a slightly disgusted expression as if they are regarding an upturned stone with writhing maggots underneath, which is probably what they consider you anyway, but forget that THEY are the stones sitting so primly on top. And two, they are, as are stones, so rigid and unmoving that they forget it is none of their business what MY PARENTS decided to name ME and that there’s really no point in scratching that bigheaded head of theirs and trying to work that pea-sized brain underneath around this whole name-game when IT ISN’T EVEN YOUR PROBLEM, GODDAMNIT AND YOU ARE JUST WASTING MY TIME, MAN!!!
So, in these overheated (boiling point crossed by nearly ten degrees) moments I often think, why is this whole system not computerized? Why aren’t there computers and affidavit vending machines instead of these pea-brains? Stuff would become so easy and FAIR if things were mechanized! No shitty queues where you always end up stuck between horribly fat and smelly men with tendencies of looking down your kurta, etc. and doing their best to be as un-cooperative as possible…I mean, why? And then I can’t believe I’m the one saying all this! I with all my sustainability-talk. Where do sustainability, harmony and peace fit into this rigmarole? I wonder.
So anyway, continuing on my travels and travails over this letter, I finally get the affidavit and along with another plain simple letter stating the same old thing, I have the job of posting it now. Since IGNOU doesn’t allow couriering, all correspondence should occur via the Indian Postal System. This means we have to speed post the letter and affidavit. This means we have to go to the post-office.
Now post office is having its lunch hour, so aadhe ghante baad aao. So Nitin and I head home to have OUR lunch. After a short power nap, (running around the court has taken its toll on me) I head out on my own to the post office again. This time, they say, speed post time over. Apparently, it’s only up to 3 in the afternoon, when I’d thought (thought, no, you ASSUMED, my very-agitated dad says) it was up to 4. Very well, I decide. Let the Indian government, the bureaucracy, the postal system and IGNOU go boil their heads, I am going home like a good girl. But no sooner do I step out of the rickshaw that daddy dearest literally pushes me back in, saying I better go to the GPO (oh, God. The General Post Office. Even more morose and dreaded than the other branches, I have heard). I, his obedient daughter, go.
At the GPO there’s another queue. Moreover, at first, just to figure out which queue is mine to claim is very difficult, maybe because yours truly is ‘cue’less. By the time I do ‘get in line’, it’s extended by another ten or so people. The fans, very smartly, have been placed over on the other side of the counters. I began to get overheated once again. The female behind the counter of my queue, since it’s so obvious that she’s got no life, decides to entertain herself by pulling a smart one on each of the poor bastards standing at the counter. So every chap trying to submit a money-order gets a comment from Mrs. Smartass about the varying limitations of his Intelligence Quotient. Finally, after what seems like eons and eons comes mera number. I finally reach my hand out with that danged (so much trouble it has caused me! But no, Sakhi, think positively, think positively and good things shall happen) envelope. But since it’s my lucky, lucky, la-la-la lucky day, she decides it’s the perfect moment to take a tea-break. I feel like throwing the envelope at her, giving her the choicest of gaalis and storm out. But as I fume, the female behind me, one of those kindred spirits you meet during traumatizing moments such as these, gives me the best advice of my lifetime. “The elephant has gone, tail’s all that’s remaining. Don’t give it up just for the tail.” says Wise One. I listen to her. Stay put. And as soon as I get my speed post receipt, run the hell out of there. It has gone, finally.
“What’s in a name?” said Shakespeare. Well, HE, for one, didn’t have his mother’s first name as his surname. As for me, I’ve decided to get married as soon as possible to a nice-surnamed chap and finish this name business once and for all. Any takers?
P.S.- you all know I really don’t mean to get married, but just in case you thought otherwise, NO, that’s my idea of a joke. But then sometimes I think, is not keeping a surname and having my mother’s name really worth all the trouble it causes? I know it is the most secular form of a name and that surnames denote caste identities and that a mother, because she births and nourishes the child, should have her share in the naming-game too. And I’m glad I have all that. I’m glad I have a name such as mine, and it’s most probably unique and I’m the only Sakhi Nitin Anita in the world (an honour not everybody has), but is it really worth all the trouble of explaining to stony-faced officials? Sometimes, I don’t think so. But then, what alternatives do I have? Let me know.
~14th June, 2010