It was the month of July and as is the case every year, there are submissions to be made to government offices. While India is trying hard to make everything online and smoothen the process it is indeed an uphill task.
There is a great hurry to make everything on-line, and like in most matters government, there is a lack of perfection in planning and execution. Add to this the teething problems of an unfamiliar system operated by employees who are unfamiliar with the computer operations along with the general attitude of carelessness and unwillingness to be an active and interested worker, there are bound to be glitches. Thus, the constant postponement of deadlines provides some solace to the citizens.
Be that as it may, the general mode was to upload the information which would then generate an OTP number, which for reasons of security is not to be disclosed to anyone. This meant that the whole submission should not take more than 15 minutes at the most. But things never work as smooth as one wishes, and this is when the struggle begins.
The OTP number just wouldn’t generate. This was strange as the concerned office had all the required details necessary for the same. But as the documents had been uploaded at least there was the acknowledgement number so one tended to relax.
Well, that was wishful thinking for then one is soon jolted back into reality when a message is received stating that the hard copy of acknowledgement was not received and that it should be send forthwith and this was time bound as well. This is confusing to the common citizen who doesn’t understand the in’s and out of the computer world. Add to that the age factor there is a general rise in blood pressure.
This was followed by ringing up professionals asking what was to be done. The advice received was that there was no need to get flustered as it is a common occurrence and that many are facing the same problem. There is safety in numbers I suppose, and so again there was a sigh of relief.
Well, the relief was short lived. The document had to be sent by speed post or ordinary post and that too it is mandatory that the document should not get folded. Having done the needful, the next step was to visit the nearest post office. The Indian post offices are housed in various types of buildings. Some are in old structures dating back to the British era and the others are very modern. The postman looks the same though…in his khaki uniform, riding the bicycle and come rain or sunshine just plods on with no protection, and is indeed a sorry sight. My area is blessed with five of them all within two kilometers and one being at walking distance I proceeded towards it with a spring in my step.
It should not have taken more than five minutes. The nearest one is a branch and set in a shop sized place in a modern but not very new building and although renovated not much to talk about. There are three windows but mostly only one window is open for operations. Inevitably the line is long as there is no segregation of work and extra personnel are not there to handle the load. As I stood in the line I realized that the rakhi festival was just a couple of days away and the rush was for sending rakhis (The colorful wrist bands or threads tied by sisters to brothers, who in turn promise to support and protect the sister). Obviously, I was not happy at this, however I crossed over and through the window asked rather loudly whether the speed post was being taken. I had to ask three times before a reply came in a disinterested and burdensome voice that clearly expressed disapproval. This was not new to me and I persisted and further questioned him. I was told that the printer was not working so it was not possible to send the same.
I stayed calm as I am familiar with this environment. Just then a gentleman with whom I was familiar offered to take me to the University post office. I declined as there would be a problem of getting a return transport. A light drizzle had started by then. I opened the umbrella and stepped out and caught a rickshaw to the post office on the highway ,which was just five minutes away. The place as usual was quiet and I felt confident that the work would get done quickly. I got down from the rickshaw asking him to wait, and entered the office. The line had about 12 people and I thought it best to wait and expected to finish in the next ten minutes. I struck up a conversation with the gentlemen before me. After some pleasantries he decided to move out as the official at the window was extremely slow and taking his time. Further each individual had three to five envelopes. I realized that I would be waiting for at least two hours at this rate before my number came up. This post office is bigger and has many windows. Again, very few personnel and just one window handling everything.
The rickshaw was on waiting and the meter was running. This was most frustrating, but not wanting to give up easily, I decided to visit another one when someone in the line informed me that the printer was not working there either. This was indeed getting hilarious.
Well there were still two more, I discarded one and decided to head straight for the University post office. It has a good reputation, the only one that has personnel that are helpful and go out of their way to help citizens which mostly comprise students. It was raining hard when I got there. I went in and enquired about the speed post. The postmaster was helpful, but wait for it…there was no connectivity; for the last two days they had been experiencing some problems. The situation was indeed tremendously comical now and I laughed out loudly. He looked at me quizzically as did the other employees. I apprised him of the situation and he expressed surprise.
However, he said the Range Hills may be okay…he even rang them up and told me that it was operating and the line wasn’t long. However common sense now told me to return to my abode as the crowd there would be large with the other post offices having problems. (I was right as the same was corroborated by the gentleman who had offered me a ride at the first post office. He seemed to have done the rounds as well!)
I sat in the rickshaw and received sympathy from the chatty rickshaw driver, who went ahead and suggested that we could try the Aundh post office. I firmly told him to desist from doing so and ordered him to take me back. I had spent two hundred bucks on a worthless merry go round with the job not done and the polluted air was now making me tired.
I did visit the nearest post office after the two days of holiday and thankfully the printer had been repaired. Again, it took quite an effort to elicit an answer from the person at the window. I will have to send the document two more times as I have been told that there is no surety that they will receive it, or if the postman delivering the document bends the envelope the document will be rejected. Sigh!!
Funny as these episodes are in hind sight, they are a constant part of life here in India and if one is not calm it can take an emotional toll on the common man where he has to run around and waste precious time and energy on jobs that should take very little time. Many times, I have seen that they result in arguments and fights that disturb everything and everyone, and although the customer may be right there is no solution but to be patient and just get the job done with a mild aggressiveness that at least ensures attention to get the work done…… as nothing changes and things continue in the same vein. The old and the sick and the professionals who are in a hurry, and the time conscious suffer the most as they get all worked up. The best solution is to stay calm…change is taking place, but at an extremely slow pace, old habits don’t die easily and there is a reluctance to change or learn new ways of handling business…
Hopefully things will be working the next time I visit the Post Office and there won’t be a repeat!