Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One Department, Two Cultures

I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from the Registrar of Births and Deaths regarding a spelling discrepancy in my grandfather's name.

I went to their office with the necessary proof. The clerk at the counter was shocked. He called out to his colleague and asked him whether he had started phoning people regarding any problems with the issuing of a death certificate. His colleague said an emphatic NO - must be X.

Mr X was in the computer room. I went to meet him. He and his colleague were courteous and very helpful. They wrote down the issue and asked me to see Y who had the pending file.

Mr. Y was the person called out by the clerk at the counter. He was very busy, concentrating and carefully copying and filling columns of a register. I waited. The whole atmosphere reminded me of the protagonist in Overcoat by Gogol though I must have read it 40 years ago.

He completed the line and then talked to me. He told me to submit an application on a 'pakka' paper. He was reasonably polite. This time I knew what a 'pakka' paper was - bond paper, preferably green. I had earlier printed an application regarding my grandmother's name on a white paper at home and it had to be redone on the desired paper.

I got the necessary application typed. The typist misspelled my grandfather's name just as it was in the register! So, I suppose the conventional spelling in Punjab is 'Sunder' and not 'Sundar'. In fact, I could have provided proof of either of the spellings. My father's current passport had one spelling but the expired one had the other! National ID program had better take care of the correct representation in the original language and accept variations in transliterations.

Anyway, I got the letter corrected and took it to Mr. Y. Waited for him to finish his writing some entries in the register. Mr. Y scanned the letter, marked some data in red ink. Signed it and asked me to go to counter 3, where I had first gone.

The man at the counter grumbled. Why come to me when the officer has already signed it. Go to counter 6.

Counter 6 belonged to the computer cell. When my turn came, the lady at the counter said, you should just give it to Mr. Y, he has the file. I told her that Mr. Y asked me to go to counter 3, who told me to go to counter 6. I could see her smile faintly. She took the paper from me, made a remark on it and asked me to come back a week later.

I suppose changing the 'e' to an 'a' will require much more time in the register than replacing it in the computer record. And I expect that the computer record can only be updated after Mr. Y has made the necessary corrections in at least one register.

I am in no hurry.

No comments:

Post a Comment