Yesterday’s Passport Office was an experience. Two hours commute Colvale Panjim return and one and half hours in the Passport Office. I was told to report at 11am. At 10.59, I put in my papers to a Nepali guard who put the time on the pile of papers. On one level, it was well organised.
On another a frustrating waste of one and a half hour. That too, midday, when I get a lot of work done. Went through five queues plus a short wait for the X-Ray machine (No. I did not have two rupees. So my driver had to make the trek back to pay the smiling, trusting girl). The girls who accepted the papers in queue number one stared, giggled, smiled and nudged each other. Finally I got to the counter.
The breezy bit; after she wanted one photocopy of a certain page showing that my last page was full of stamps. She sent me to queue number two. All smiles.
“Wendell no time to go on your boat awot?” Taken aback, I said I was in the USA for two months; asked if she was from the house with the seven dogs, where we park our boat. “Not seven. Eight”. To which the other girls at the counter behind queue number one turned to her “Woi go? Really eight dogs?”. Queue two done… with a ‘token’ allotted to me. N66. Not worth playing matka or the lottery on it, considering what lay ahead. N66 was led to another room. “Wait”. Finally N66 flashed on a screen. “Go to counter A8”. Papers rechecked, fingerprints taken, photographed.
She actually asked me to smile, clicked many pix and then sweetly asked if I liked the photo and if it was OK. I liked that I don’t look like a criminal. “Go to the next room and wait”. A ‘seated queue’ here. Till N66 pinged on the screen and a lady shouted “Yen66. Wayndull Roadreeks, Counter B2”. The entire room of forty turned while I blushed and ran to the next room. There, the lady saw the papers. USA ‘Mark Sheet’, Summa Cum Laude, GPA:4, Deans List baffled her. The Paris Certificate had no grades mentioned; just a certificate saying I completed the course.
So I switched focus to my School and High School certificates which satisfied her. She signed on my N66 slip. “Go back, sit down and wait”. So I went, head down, to the last row with forty eyes following. Began reading Kohinoor by Darylrymple and Anand. Was somewhere in Afghanistan trailing the diamond, doing a yogic turn off from the surround sound of pinging and name calling. An hour later, N66 pings again. This time the baritone had gone for lunch so my name wasn’t called out. The Assistant Passport Officer summoned me in. “Sit”.
I did as commanded. Paper shuffling, some mumbling in Hindi and then a Cancelled stamp thumped on page number one. “Go to receipt queue”. Around two rooms and near the Exit, the last line. She smiled, gave me a receipt and returned my passport. “Now?”, I asked her. “Give the security guard the receipt. Your passport will be couriered in three days”. I looked at my watch. Exactly 12.30. The Panjim sunshine never felt so good after all those hideous fluorescent white tube lights.
(The author is a fashion designer, writer, Environmental Activist for Goa, is a Padma Shree awardee, Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters bestowed by the French Ministry of Culture and Communications. He lives with 28 paws via five dogs and two cats, with his partner in a remote village in Goa)