Saturday, January 14, 2012

of Passports, Chaos and Choices!!

Hii folks,

     I come from a city where every second boy is forced to become an Engineer. I am one of those engineers who is expected to make it big in the United States of America. Forget our country where unless I complete my Master's, I will not be able to make it big in life. The problem is that I am from a social background where my so called 'relatives' wouldn't consider me fit enough to be labelled as 'Successful', if I don't clear GRE or TOEFL and fly to the US of A!! 

    So here I was standing in a queue beside the Regional Passport Office - Secunderabad at 4.30 am. By then there were already thirty odd people in front of me eagerly waiting to resolve their passport related issues and get their damn passport as early as possible. One of them wanted to go to Dubai where he was promised a very good 'package'; big enough for someone who only knows how to build walls. The other was facing problems in getting her passport renewed just because she didn't have a 'marriage certificate'. 'How am I supposed to get this marriage certificate now?', I heard her complain to her husband on the phone. My guess was they were married for more than 20 years now. And even as the Sun's first rays broke out, the queue was swelling exponentially. 

   Today was an unusually cold day and my fingers were already numb. I was finding it tough to type up 'Love you' and 'Missing you' messages to my girlfriend. Yes, I am supposed to have a girlfriend as well, just like many guys of my age have these days. She woke up rather early today; just to keep me motivated. Standing in a queue for more than an hour can be tiring especially when you don't know whether you will be able to accomplish the task or not. It was very sweet of her to have chatted with me till I bid her bye and wished her luck for the lab practical exam she had. She is my junior and I would like to believe that our love story is going great guns. You never know though!! Anyways thanks to her, I somehow managed to stay calm throughout. 

Finally, by the time the Police constable there signaled the gate-keeper to let us inside the passport office complex, there were more than 300 people in the line. And along with the agents who roamed like Vultures waiting to pick up their prey (read gullible people coming from the rural hinterlands of AP), the people in the queue made a perfect setting for Chaos and Mayhem to kick in. As we started moving in slowly, I thought this to be the end of everything horrible I had imagined a moment before. The queue was moving smoothly and we entered inside the complex where there were seats arranged. We settled on the seats and there was a momentary pause of complete silence. Just then, a haughty lady arrived and asked us to get up and move towards the entrance to the 'Enquiry counters'. Was it a trigger? I don't know but the queue suddenly broke up and people started running towards the hallway to the counters. It was a stampede like situation and I didn't lose a moment to realise that I had to run to escape the unruly crowd's wrath. 

There was hardly anyone to control the mob and people started hitting each other; hurling abuses at will to hold on to their positions in the new queue that emerged in front of the entrance to the 'Enquiry Counters'. I was shocked beyond belief. Was I waiting in the queue for more than 5 hours now just to feel like shit amidst an unruly and uncivilized group of people? Half of them were as educated as you and me are. Leave the Visa, I then realised that earning a passport itself wasn't going to be easy as it seemed a few days back. 

I am proud of this city; a city where I spent the decisive moments of my life. But would I like to spend the rest of my life in a city where Corruption and Lawlessness have become the norm? I have my doubts. Anyways, thankfully the next one hour that I spent there was not difficult though. After I got my token, I sat beside a guy who held a black leather file with the title 'Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad' on it. I immediately felt a strong urge to talk to this guy and find out why he chose to stay rather than search for greener pastures in USA, UK or Australia. And after the usual intro-talk, when I did finally ask him the question lingering on my mind, his reply was in jest. 

'Dude, I liked the movie 'Swades' so much that I chose to do an MBA from the toughest B-School to get into rather than do what you are yearning to do now'. He laughed like a half-dead motor, then looked at me seriously and said,' I had no choice buddy. I was brought up amidst jet-fighters and guns. I was brought up in an environment where 'Nation' as a concept was given the utmost priority. So even the thought of going to 'Uncle Sam's' country was not an option for me. Yes, I still have to answer questions like 'Why didn't you go to the US of A? You could have earned so much more there!!' But I always had a choice and so do you. It is up to you as to what choice you make.'

I had never seen a guy so expressive. It was rather the question I asked him that seemed to have struck his emotional chords. But he never imposed his views on me, which I thought was very prudent of him. We then had a rather lengthy discussion on why things are so wrong in this whole messed up system of issuing passports. Thanks to this particular MBA guy, I suddenly felt so much more important and enlightened. More so because I also had my chances to share some interesting snippets and insights about Hyderabad, with a guy who I thought asked a lot of questions given his qualifications.

By the time I was finished, the clock was ticking half past eleven. I had now spent 420 minutes in what I would like to call as the 'Mess-hole of Andhra Pradesh'. If you want to experience mayhem and see how the face of corruption looks like - Visit RPO Secunderabad. If you want to see frustrated faces all around - Stand in front of RPO Secunderabad. And what more!! If you want to get robbed in broad daylight, it is again the best place for the same. Yes, there are pickpocket's lurking around as well!!

I have made my choice. Once I get my Visa stamped, I will think twice before returning back to India again. That MBA graduate did say one thing correctly - 'Listen to what your heart says and stick to the decision you make. Life is all about making choices. There is no such thing as a 'Right choice' and a 'Wrong choice'. It is when you are not true to yourself that your choice ends up as a 'Wrong choice'!!

Signing off,
An Engineer