14 July 2012
Dilli o Dilli
Or, I KNEW that North India was a different country
Moving is not to be taken lightly anywhere. But in Delhi, it takes on a whole other dimension. Having moved to a different flat in April, having been through previous pain of needing to show ‘address proof’ under various circumstances AND having discovered (accidentally) the fact that India Post issues ‘proof of address’ cards (PAC), I decided to take the plunge.
So. Download form. Fill form. Get copies of passport and Delhi University (DU) identity card for good measure. Get two passport size photographs. Attach said photographs. Go to the DU post office (henceforth PO). Go to the counter, get stared at blankly, then get kicked upstairs. To the postmaster (PM) himself. Shove the form a him. He looks at it, turns the pages slowly, calls his colleague who looks at it. They confer and are relieved to discover that, because the form says it has to be signed by the PRO (P) and this particular post office does NOT have a PRO (P) AND, anyway, they do not deliver post to my area, I needed to go to the Shakti Nagar PO and seek a PRO (P). That is, a Public Relations Officer (Post). Sigh. Have to leave for my American trip (really—north and south) shortly, so I postpone the delights in store for me. This is end May.
Fast forward to July. I’m back in Delhi—delightful, hot, 45C Delhi, that leaves no energy even to think about trekking around chasing cards. Then disaster strikes. I lose my cell phone (while enjoying an exhilarating walk in the first real monsoon shower I’ve seen in Delhi, but that’s another story). So the temperature has dropped, I’m trekking around chasing SIM cards anyway, so I revive the notion of chasing a proof of address card. So I find the folder with all those forms and decide to go to the Shakti Nagar PO.
But first I need to get more photographs (to apply for a cell phone) so go to Kamla Nagar. Mistake. It’s a Monday and the market is closed. The ricksha wallah says that the photo shops in Malka Ganj would be open. I ignore him; I have the photographs necessary for the proof of address card (henceforth PAC), so decide to go to Shakti Nagar PO first. Mistake. It’s a tiny PO. Does not have exotic bodies such as PRO (P)’s. Go to Malka Ganj PO, they say. Hmm. Need to get photos, right? So off we go to Malka Ganj PO, which is almost where we started, i.e., close to the University.
Go to counter, get kicked upstairs to PM. Shove the form at him. He looks at it, turns the pages slowly, calls his colleague (the PRO (P) perhaps?) who looks at it too. They confer, and are relieved to discover that, because I live in Mall Apartments, it’s not their jurisdiction. Go to Civil Lines PO, they say. Sigh. Can you give me a phone number or, better (because I don’t have a cell phone), phone them and find out whether they would do this for me? They are very helpful, phone said Civil Lines PO, hand over the phone to me. I explain the situation, confirm that there is a PRO (P) there; they say that they have no idea what is involved but would sign and send what ever was required to the GPO (the main, the general PO).
So far so good. But I need to get those photos and temp SIM card (not MTNL), so I do all that. Got Aircel on my student’s recommendation and I’m not particularly happy with it…but, oh yes that’s another story. Get all that and decide to go to Civil Lines after a bit of lunch and rest.
….Hurray for the bestest easy chair in the world….
Fed and rested, I take off for Civil Lines by the metro. I get off at the wrong stop (Civil Lines, naturally), get back into metro and go back to the right stop (Vidhan Sabha), find the post office, which is in this area of vast gardens and colonial buildings, tucked away behind the audit offices of the Delhi state government.
A typical low white-washed building with two dark entrances, I choose the one on the left (it did not matter) and see the counter. BUT, because I am now experienced, I directly go ‘upstairs’—behind the counter and walk up to largest table where there is the person whose table it clearly is, talking with four others. I get to the table and stand for a couple of minutes, they finish their conversation (about investments or pensions or some such) and most of them dissolve away. This leaves two of them—the PM and the PRO (P) [it takes me about 2 hours to establish these and other facts to follow].
I shove the form at the PM. He looks at it and hands it over to the PRO (P). He takes it, flips the pages (slowly), looks at the photographs (slowly), reads the form (slowly, but slowly). Reads it again (slowly). Turns it over to make sure there is nothing printed on the back (slowly). Reads it over again. And again. Then hands it over to the PM. Who looks at it. Doesn’t read it as thoroughly as the PRO (P). Registers the fact that it has to be signed by the PRO (P). Hands it back to him. They look at each other. The PRO (P) looks at the form again. It is like they have found the new and strange thing that they have to deal with, but have never heard of.
They confer a bit, and the PRO (P) suggests to the PM that it must be like the ID card (Rs 10) that the post office normally issues. Then the he turns to me and asks, yeh kahan se liya? I tell him I downloaded it from the internet. He nods. Then they decide that it must be genuine, and decide to go along with it for the moment (amazing tolerance and liberality), ask for a copy of my ID and, AHA, proof of address!! I explain to them the problem. Ok. I have a telephone bill, but the address is handwritten (my first bill in this new address, I cannot find the recent one). They shake their heads. I point out that they can confirm from the postman that he does deliver the bills to my flat. Ok, they let it pass (amazing tolerance, again). At this point I am getting a bit concerned and remark that I do not have a copy of the application for my record. They nod, I ask whether I could make a copy in their office. There is not copy machine near by. I would have to go to IP college or, ‘paas mein Khyber Pass hi hoga, haha’. Haha and I decide not to venture into the humid heat for that.
In the meantime,the PRO (P) determines that I need to pay Rs 250 (the form says that’s the fee for a new application for the PAC). So now I go to the counter, wait in a queue of three people, get to the head queue, have a bit of confabulation with the girl at the counter, who turns to the PM and PRO (P) to ask just what she should enter in the receipt, takes my money and gives me the receipt with counterfoil. So I go back around to the PM’s table, hand over the receipt to the PRO (P). He takes it, looks over the form for a while to determine where he should stick it, when he comes up with a serious question—the form is being submitted finally to the GPO, where is the record of the money having been paid at this PO? So the PM decides to phone the GPO. Some time to find the phone number, dials, talks, gets shunted to a different phone number, again, and then again. He gives up after the last conversation where he was asked to contact the ‘BD’ (business division, I think). He recounts that the various conversations revealed that yes, the people at the GPO knew of this particular form, but had not memory/record/knowledge of the particular circular that notified this and, anyway, ‘yeh to South India mein chalta hai, yahan to yeh card hamne kabhi nahin banaya’. So, if I get the card made, I will be a pioneer, the first in Delhi, maybe North India!!
We have a good laugh about it, I help the PRO (P) locate the form on line (he discovers that this is, indeed, the good old Rs 10 card, with an added Rs 240 ‘processing fee’), my telephone and address information on the MTNL web site, show him how he to deal with the problem of his computer mouse not working quite right and we all become good pals. In fact, the PM now offers to make me a copy of the first page of my application, sends a peon to do it (he takes about half an hour), signs and stamps it as proof that I have indeed submitted the form.
On parting I remark that at least they have passed their time that afternoon in a different manner from normal, they nod, I suggest that I should send my friends over to do the same thing—but they smile, caution me to put that off until I actually have the card in my hands and send me on my way.
I have become rather fond of these offices and their staff who are coping with all kinds of things being thrown their way and with what seems to be minimal support. They could move a bit faster, of course, but if you decide that you are not in a hurry and do not expect to get a job done within an hour, then all is well and you make new friends.