Passport and Emigration Counter Woes!
My husband and I try to take a vacation once a year to refresh ourselves from our relatively peaceful lives so that we can happily plunge into post vacation depression once we are back to our remarkably unremarkable life. As our office timings do not coincide, vacations are the only time we get to spend an obnoxious amount of time together to bore the hell out of each other. These small breaks are the time to publicly announce our detest for modern technology and to swear off FB, Watsapp and other social media while secretly checking them and trying hard not to post anything lest we look like the principle-less hypocrites that we are. As my husband moonlights as a student, we were unable to take any major vacations last year (shhh….minor ones doesn’t really count!). But before getting ready for this year’s vacation we had to get a lot of things sorted out.
Every time we have travelled to international destinations, we have had a warm reception at our country’s emigration counters. Neither my husband nor I have updated the spouse information in the passport with each other’s name as it is a complicated process that requires us to get our valid passports reissued. This addition of name is not at all a legal mandate if you have a valid marriage certificate which we have and of which I make a point to keep a copy with me always. But the officers at the emigration counters were never satisfied with our legal marriage certificate. So, they make it a point to thoroughly investigate our marital status before giving us the permission to exit our country even if it is just for a week or 2. One particular incident we faced at emigration still plays in my mind.
Standing in front of the emigration officer professing our undying love for each other, he takes it upon himself to test our marriage claims. The officer asks my husband the zip code of my native village which he has hardly visited once in the last two years as we live in a faraway city. Like Hermione in a classroom, I show off my knowledge by reciting the zip code in one breath. The hatred filled stare which he gave me reminded me of Snape that I was expecting “10 points from Gryffindor for being a know-it-all smarty-pants” to fall from his mouth. He gave me a dressing down instead for not letting my husband answer my zip code and asked me the zip code of my husband’s native city. Numbers and I never meet eye to eye and it is with great difficulty that I even remember my phone number. I looked at him with a blank stare but had the presence of mind to suggest that as we do not reside in that city we do not know each other’s native zip code. Grumpily, he agrees for us to pass through and I felt like Frodo crossing the evil gates of Mordor. As all our trips had this fun beginning, I had decided to reissue my passport with spousal endorsement so that we might have a smoother emigration the next time. Hardly did I know another bigger ordeal waited for me in this pretext!
The process involved in getting any government identity proof is a nightmare in India. Hence, a lot of thought went into deciding to reissue my passport just for adding my husband’s name. I would not be wrong if I say that more thought and analysis went into this decision than deciding to marry my husband! Lot of my friends who had recently undergone this process assured me of its simplicity. So, with a positive mindset I decided to take the plunge. Since the customer interfacing activities of the passport center is outsourced to private firms currently, getting an appointment and payment was a cakewalk. While getting my photo taken, the employee even asked me if I was satisfied with the picture! Sporting a sweet smile and pushing my vanity aside I agreed to the picture which did no justice to my beauty. The passport officers were also extremely cordial asking me questions to ascertain my address. Casually enquiring about the process they said that within 3 days I will be receiving my new passport. I was on seventh heaven. At the last counter, they stamped the cancelled seal on my current passport and broke the sad news to me. As my previous passport verification was filed under “Adverse” category, the reissue of passport will have to go through all the steps of issuing a new passport!! The lady at the office explained to me that “Adverse” status is given to those passports where the police verification was not successful. My happiness turned to confusion and then anger as I clearly remembered meeting the police officer for my last passport verification. As there was no point lamenting over an incident that happened eight years before, I unhappily went back home to wait for my police verification.
The police took their sweet time in verifying my application. The grumpy emigration officer was a sweet angel compared to the police officers. Apart from all the regular documents needed for verification, they asked me a lot of questions regarding my job and stay in the city, fortunately nothing related to zip code! I wanted to inform the officer that no one is crazy or suicidal enough to steal the identity of an engineer in Bangalore to be a corporate slave for the rest of their life, but politely held my tongue and answered his questions. He assured me that he was satisfied with my answers and that he will give a positive report, but this gave me a déjà vu as this was exactly what the previous officer too had mentioned years ago. The next three weeks went like months as I awaited my passport application status to become verified. Soon, I saw that my application had gone through and that the passport had reached my home. I felt as victorious as Hercules was after finishing his gauntlet of tasks!!
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