Emigration Check Not Required!

Just a couple of stamps (the ink type), a scrawled signature and some writing. That's ECNR. It took me four hours in a queue, 5 minutes to collect the passport later and more than 2 hours of riding in traffic, to get the ECNR clearance.

Inspite of warnings from friend Debu, I left home only at 7 am. I couldn't have left earlier as it was freezing cold even then. Well, got to the Passport office, 45 minutes later, only to face a snaking queue of people. Better than 75 people already ahead of me. The office opens at 9:30 am, a good 1 hour 45 minutes from then. Got in line and cursed my not carrying some reading material.

Ahead of me a family was discussing some "family" matters. Didn't exactly hear what they spoke, but the tone and the few words I caught, showed a small tussle going on. That was fun. Like watching a movie where you don't understand the accent but get the general drift. Interesting way to spend the morning. A little while later, my attention caught a hawk (?) shredding apart his morning meal (a mouse I think). Watched the hawk until the mouse lost all its skin. The scene was turning too bloody for me. Just then a mother-monkey walked up to the wall, by the side of which our queue stretched. Did I mention that the gates weren't yet open? Anyway mother-monkey solemnly watched her oddly-shaped cousins standing there waiting for the gates to open. Mother-monkey's look read complete lack of interest. After some relative watching mother-monkey decided to get back to work and left us.

I noticed that some birds were hopping around on the trees around. They were right over our heads and we looked easy target for their droppings. That made me uneasy. I couldn't wait in the queue with bird poop on me. I just kept praying that the birds were all done with their morning chores. Fortunately, lady luck was with me!

A few minutes later, the gates opened to let us folks in. To form another queue inside the compound. God, this was crazy. Well, we had more entertainment waiting for us. This time, a lady and her husband were in the queue. The lady found a spot to sit. But it was a little behind her position in the queue. She left the hubby in the queue and sat down at the spot. The people standing and sitting in the queue around that position mistook this. They thought she was gate-crashing and began to make a hue and cry. The lady tried to explain to those crazy people that she was ahead in the queue and that her husband was keeping her place in the line. Crazy people are crazy because they are tired of the waiting. Her explanation goes unheard and the crazy people just keep bickering. Somehow the lady keeps her cool and continues undettered. I really admired that.

After that show was over, I switched to watching this very cute little kid. The kid must have been only a few months into walking. The kid danced, ran, fell and ran a lot. It was quite amusing to watch its antics. Every now and then, the kid would try to run off to the outside and the dad had to run after it. Children know how to bring some fun to the most tiring place.

Finally, the officials streamed in and we were let into the building for some more waiting. We had chairs to sit on this time. Cool. Slowly our procession of people moved to the head of the line and were attended to. The whole lousiness here was that there were no instructions or check lists to be found anywhere. People were sent away to get this and that after they reached the counter and tried to put in their application. This was frustrating both for the staff as well as the applicants. To me, it looked completely ridiculous. Some people had to return to the counter five or six times, to get everything in place. One simple check list along with the application form would have saved all the misery.

Lo! It was my turn. While in the queue, I had run out to the nearest copier to get copies of everything i needed and didn't need. In duplicate. Turned out that I didn't need most of the copies. Well, success never tasted bitter. Phew! End of ordeal.

P.S: I went in the evening to pick up the passport with the stamp. My name was called out just as I enetered. I was in and out in a matter of five minutes. Thank god for such big mercies.

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