The security guard announced in the waiting room that it was time for the 12.15 pm appointment folks to queue up. Off I went with my 3 documents (photocopies of the previous passport, Ration Card, Voter ID card) while Mom shouted into the office, “I’ll be back at 3.30 pm!"
The TCS staff at the first counter checked my documents, filed them in a brown envelope and sent me into the actual waiting area. This hall had people with coupon numbers and people without, an LCD screen with token numbers appearing on them and no instructions whatsoever about what to do next.
Asking around, I figured I’d only get a token number AFTER my name was announced. It could have been simpler and faster had the guy at the first counter given me a token number. But I’ll over look that.
Ten minutes after receiving the token number, my token number flashed asking me to head to Counter A. After checking my documents and clicking my "passport photo,” the lady dropped a bomb:
But where is your marriage certificate, madam?
But I’m not married, madam!
She apologized and went about with her work. So much pleasantness at a government office? Wha!
Did I want SMS updates on the progress of my renewed passport? Only thirty rupees, ma'am. I handed over a hundred rupee note and apologized that I wasn’t carrying change. Counter A Lady said that wouldn’t be a problem and handed me seventy rupees with a smile.
At Counter B another official rechecked and verified my details. What do I have to do for a Tatkal passport, I asked. This is for a normal passport, he smiled. That was one too many smiles for a government office. Not wanting to ruin my luck, I shut up and moved on to Counter C.
The lady at Counter C checked my details for accuracy and asked me to collect my receipt at the counter near the exit.
No awkward moments, no fiddling around with the documents, no veiled asks? This can’t be true.
At the exit, I was handed a receipt that said I didn’t have to subject myself to a Police Verification and a feedback form. Excellent all the way lest they change something because of one Good hidden away somewhere.
I stepped out completely flummoxed and checked my watch. 12.45 PM. From the time I entered the office to the time I left, it had taken me all of 30 minutes.
Two hours later, I received an SMS that my passport had been processed. Thirty minutes later, “Your passport has been printed.” And it wasn’t even dinner time!
By Friday evening, the passport had been quality checked. On Saturday morning, the passport shipped.
Monday morning, the phone beeped an SMS from Mom. “Your passport is here.”
I had my appointment on Thursday, the passport was printed on Friday, shipped on Saturday, received on Monday.