Another much-touted card that we have to chase and woo!
Posted On Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 08:20:48 AM
It’s not easy, remaining a card-carrying citizen of planet India. Let’s see now — how many cards have I, over the years, have to get for myself? Each time being told that this is THE card, and after you get a hold of this one, there is NO other card that you will have to furnish to prove that you are a bonafide citizen of this great land, and entitled to all the wonderful goodies that it has to offer. So there was long ago the ration card.
Your parents carefully, oh so carefully, got theirs, held on to it, and when you grew up, you were handed a precious grubby note that said that your name had been cut from their card and you were now eligible to have your own ration card.
Living in peace time, and in that very fortunate strata of society that never had to stand in line for substandard foodgrains and kerosene, that ration card served me only ever to prove I was me, and to get that other Holy Grail, the gas card.
Then along came that other much-touted thing, the election card. And no, your passport, which you had acquired determinedly without the help of a tout, was not enough to establish your bona fides for your election card.
You had to pull out that birth cert and school leaving cert and ‘light bill’ for where you lived, and go do that whole thing. That was circa 1992 —at that time, we were also asked to hand in our old ration cards, because the whole system was to be revamped and us haves were going to have a different coloured one, and the have-nots another coloured ones and the have-nothings would get a third colour. That is the last I ever saw of my haloed ration card, and thank god I was never ever asked for it again.
As for the election card, that too was never required of me ever anywhere, and it sits patiently in my filing cabinet in a file importantly marked Important Documents. Somewhere along the way, I made a passport, and now, I was told, I had THE document of all documents in my hand, never ever needing anything else. Then came the PAN card. At last, we were told, this PAN card will be THE final card you will need for anything, ever.
And it was so important that even if you lived without one, you could not die without one or your relatives would have to feed you to the maggots in a jungle or something and so people ran around like headless chicken for this PAN card — which of course again needed at least 3 documents to procure. Well, here I exaggerate — because mine came without much ado, on the basis of my passport.
When the new kid-on-the-block, the aadhaar card, began to shimmer on the horizon, I decided to play ostrich. I just put my head in the sand and let all the commotion simply happen around me.
Itold myself that this was really for the have-nots, and I would never really need to use one, as I was a have-everything, given that I could buy food in the market, cook it on a gas cylinder connection that I legitimately owned, had a PAN card, passport, election card (on which instead of d.o.b they had my age — which instantly made it a non-proof of age, by the way).
Then I saw that people around me, other have-everythings, and not just the have-nots, were marching off and getting their aadhaar card done. So I reluctantly pulled my head out of the sand, and enviously heard stories of people’s residential societies or organisations simply calling the aadhaar card maker with his magic machine come to their doorstep.
Since I live in a place that goes by the ‘every man for himself’ principle, I went to the office of a local nagar sevak who advertised on giant posters that we could apply for our card there. What I encountered there, on four different abortive trips, was that his pals and kith and kin had set up some kind of mini-power-centre there.
People were being shouted at, herded, turned back, and hissed at. We were to take a token number, to come back another day. But that token number was available only between 10 and 11 in the morning and on many days the office shutter was firmly down, because it was the main-man’s kid’s birthday or something.
Those who did manage to get fingerprinted, etc were told rudely — ok now your card can come to you in two months or two years — don’t bug us here asking for it. On my third trip there, some good tired Samaritan standing around suggested we go to a big housing complex near by, where it was being done.
By this time, me, four army jawans who had missed their big day back at their base and were hence running pillar to post, and a bunch of people wanting help to fill the form (which had deliciously unintelligible acronyms like p.o.i, p.o.r, etc – and a couple of questions that needed yes-no answers, but were worded in that ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ cryptic way) had become quite a rag-tag team, wandering around in search of some logic and kindness.
The big housing complex that we went to simply sneered at us, all puffed up by the presence of the aadhaar machine in their society, and firmly clanged the gates on us.
Just when I was all set to do my ostrich act again, another giant poster came up in my area, and yet another nagar sevak was advertising that he was saving or sevaing us by providing the aadhaar card set up too.
And wonder of wonders, we were treated politely, asked the right questions, our papers were checked, and we did not even have to make an appointment to come again another day.
Never mind that the fingerprinting machines look like they were thrown away by some First World nation, and I almost had to make a handstand on one of them for my prints to appear clearly, but if all goes well, in three months I will be in possession of yet another hard-won card.
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