Of 3 months of procrastination, 30 minutes at the PSK and 3 days of waiting for the passport
I recently applied for my passport's renewal on the MEA site. As recently as 3 months ago.
I filled out a PDF form on Acrobat Reader (this is important), converted it to XML, uploaded it to the MEA site. Scheduled a 'Normal’ appointment for June 22nd, paid Rs 1500 but applied for a Tatkal passport, then God-promised that I’d arrive at the PSK with Rs 2000 in cash.
Then I procrastinated.
On the appointed day, I woke up at brunch o'clock and figured there’s no way I’d make it to Mangalore by 12 pm. I logged into the MEA site and rescheduled it to July 22nd.
Then I had a realization.
I had to fly out of the country on July 27th but hey, Tatkal passport takes 3 days, right? No sweat. Till Chapman at office reminded me of my Calamity Joy status whilst pointing me to an article that said the Passport Seva Kendra in Bangalore only had 17,000 booklets. Because: The supply of booklets dried up as the India Security Press in Nashik, Maharashtra, was closed between end of December 2013 and January 2014.
Then I was empty-threatened by the MEA site.
The MEA site told me this was my last shot at rescheduling after which I’d have to start the process all over again. If you’ve met the MEA site and uploaded the Passport Application form even once, you’ll know what an empty threat that is.
So I rescheduled it to August 22nd, requested Mom to bait me with beef sukka and booked my tickets to Mangalore on Cleartrip.
I made it to the Passport Seva Kendra in Mangalore on the ordained Thursday thirty minutes ahead of my scheduled 12.15 PM appointment.
For the renewal, since I had a change of permanent address (how is it permanent if it changed? Ha!), the site said that I only needed to take:
- Self-attested copies of the front and back pages of my passport
- Address proof for the new permanent address - I carried my Voter ID and the family’s Ration Card
Even the list of acceptable address proofs were helpfully listed out in a PDF.
I waited my turn while Mom upped her anxiety by asking everyone about their imaginary PSK doomsday moments. One lady said she’d been waiting since 9 AM for her husband, another claimed the average appointment length was 4 hours.
Surely it couldn’t be so bad? My friend Suku had had a wonderful experience at the PSK just a couple of months before:
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.