After a terrible experience last time, today I went back to the passport office to re-submit my form. Last time, my form was put on hold because I did not have a hard copy of the HR letter from my company. After the first basic round of verification, there are three others rounds. A, B and C. Last time my application was accepted at the first and the A counter, but was rejected at the B counter after around 8 hours. Disappointment had never stared at me in the face like it did on that day. Last week, as soon as I received the hard copy of the HR letter I logged in and took up another appointment that was today. The slot provided to me was at 11.30 and the reporting time was 11.15 am. Having learnt my lesson last time, I did not bother to go early. Thanks to the traffic and since I left late on purpose, I reached the venue by 11.45 am and was immediately ushered in as soon as I showed my appointment slip. With a "Ha ha ha" on my mind, I walked in only to be greeted by the familiar smell of disappointment.
I had to show my acknowledgement slip from the last time I visited at the first counter and wait for my file to be retrieved from the monstrous pile that was dumped on a table behind the person at the counter. This man screamed at me "Wait, I will call your name" and went on to collect the forms of the others in the line. I waited patiently as I saw a casually dressed woman walk in to the counter and laugh and chat at the people seated at the counters. The officials at the counters stopped whatever they were doing and gave her undivided attention as the crowed standing in a queue at their counters looked at them blankly. This very woman walked into the counter I was at and picked up my acknowledgment and proceeded to rummage through the pile. That was when I realized that she actually worked there. Once she retrieved my file and walked away, the officials continued their work. Just so you know, the officials seated at the counter were of both genders and not just men.
I was standing first in line at the counter and my application form had my photograph on it. Yet, the official chose to yell my name asking me to collect my form. I was feeling the beginning of a migraine and the presence of over more than twenty kids under the age of five yelling in different accents and tones were not helping either. Just as he was about to hand me my form, he got into a screaming match with another applicant who complained about the shoddy job he had done with his form. With a crowd watching and each yelling beautiful words at the other, the fight finally came to an end after ten minutes. Then I got my form. Now that my form was with me, technically I had to be sent back to the B counter as that was where the process halted last time. Right?
Wrong. I had to wait to get through the A counter again. Thankfully the crowd was only about 20% of what was there last time and my turn came in soon. The lady at the A counter verified all my documents including the hard copy of my HR letter and handed the form to me and asked me to head through to the B counter. Back to the waiting zone. Five minutes later, my number came up. As luck would have it, I got the same wretched human being who had rejected my form last time. One look at my form and he throws it back at me asking me to get back to the A counter and then come back. I politely asked him why. "Don't argue with me madam, please get out", was the answer.
Soon enough, I was back in the waiting room, waiting to be called back to the A counter having no clue why I was supposed to go through it again. When I was called to the A counter the official told me that by mistake the diplomatic/government official passport section on my application form was filled with my details and it had to be removed. Okay, valid reason. But, this was the same form that was submitted the last time I visited this place. That time no one checked this. Nor did the same official at the B counter. Finally, after correcting the new form I was asked to wait to be sent to the B counter. Waiting room, again. Trust me, by now I know how many chairs are there in the room and how many times the gentleman at the tea/coffee counter scratches his head. As luck would have it, a woman with a wailing infant decides to sit behind me with her kid right adjacent to my eardrum. The intensity of my migraine increased ten fold.
Finally my turn came in for the B counter and I sure am the luckiest person on planet earth to get the same shrewd official again. This time he did not even check the changes he asked for. Instead, he asked me for my company ID card. I was flabbergasted. I politely told him that I was not carrying my ID card with me as he had only asked for the hard copy of the HR letter. He then tells me that I have no common sense as HR letter means HR letter+Company ID card. Common sense or not, I don't know. But I had no clue that a HR letter and the company ID card was a package deal. My migraine was rapidly acting up and I was losing my patience. As he was about to reject my application again, I lost it. I showed him the rejection slip from last time saying that he had only asked for the hard copy of the HR letter that was written in red and nothing was mentioned about the ID card. My voice was a bit loud and I was irritated to the core. Looking at the crowd around me, he told me that he'll approve it but it is sure to get rejected in the C counter. I told him that I'll take my chance.
Guess where I came back next? Oh yeah, the waiting room. The same place that stinks of dried coffee and wailing children. A few minutes later, I was called to the C counter. The lady at the counter looked stern and was dealing with another applicant. His form was accepted and that was the first glimpse of hope I saw that day. When it was my turn, she took my form and checked all the details and compared it to the details of the old passport. She told me there is a change in the signature and that would call for a police verification. My heart sank. God knows how long that would take. I asked her when would that happen. She said that I would get my passport first and then I will be called for the verification. She then stamped my current passport as cancelled and told me that my form has been accepted and I could leave. Such a relief! And yes, not a single mention of the company ID here. If only I could go back to the man at the B counter and guffaw.
It took me less than two hours to get this done when compared to the eight hours of last time. While the process seems to be fairly simple, it is the people trusted with the process who complicate things. While some are polite and decent, others only miss the vampire teeth. It is a tough job to handle no doubt, but being cranky about it is not going to help anyone. Being rude and screaming at the applicants is no not right. Mine was a renewal, while most others were there to get their first passport. Such people barely have any clue about what has to be submitted and what originals have to be shown. It is not right to have them go back and forth the counters and the copy machine. Especially when some of them are senior citizens and some are mothers carrying infants. As much as the scene around is annoying, it is heartbreaking as well. If I was asked to come back to this place for a re-submission, I probably might not have unless someone dragged me back here.
The saddest part is that when I was asked to give a feedback about the service, I had to give them a good one. Why you ask? Especially with all the honesty that I keep screaming about. Well, in the feedback form you have to mention your file number, your name and other personal details. While the personal details were optional, name and file number was mandatory. With the fear that my application would be delayed if I give them bad feedback, I had to give them a decent one. Yes, I caved in. I need my passport as soon as possible and after having two terrible experiences, I did not want to come back to this place. I feel guilty for not giving them the honest feedback, but if something did go wrong I did not have it in me to go through such a harrowing experience again.
For now I'm glad that I do not have to bother about my passport for the next ten years. Hopefully, when I come back for the renewal then, some thing would have changed.