Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Driving License Story, Part 1

The current chain of events around the anti corruption drive happening in India reminded me of an incidence. So, I thought of sharing it here.

In the July of 2003, yours truly graduated as an Engineer. Fresh out of college, we had high hopes from the world we were about to face. We knew it would be tough but we had all the energy and the will in the world to give a good fight to achieve our goals. Ethics, morals and the will to change the world kind of emotions were running pretty high inside us. We knew and believed we could change the world. Such novices we were!!

After my graduate studies, I returned to my hometown and the first thing on my mind was to make a driving license. I told my father that I would go to the RTO Office the next day to get started with the “official” procedure. My father gave me a smile and wished me good luck. When other members of my family including my cousins got to know about it, most of them suggested me to take the other route. They casually and bluntly asked me to go meet a particular Juicewala in XYZ market with 2 photos and Rs 500 to get the thing done. I taunted them by saying that if educated people like us take up such ways, then how we can expect things to change in India where one third of us live on less than 2 dollars a day. There was silence for a second and then everyone burst out laughing. I was the butt of many jokes after that.

But next morning with my head held high and my chest beating with pride and honour and the Sun God gracing us with over 40 degrees, I reached the RTO office, sweating, for the first time in my life. It was total chaos. I had not expected it that way. There was no sign board etc to guide people from where to start the process. The reception desk was empty. After waiting for half and hour, I started asking people how and what to do to make a driving license. After running here and there for another half an hour, I finally understood the drill. We had to register first, then appear for a written test and finally take a practical driving test.  

Great, I thought to myself. Immediately, I went to the registration counter which was just a window and the applicants had to stand out of the building under the sun in a line to pay the fees and register. The usual way of breaking the line and getting their work done style was working for many people. I did not loose my calm and waited for my turn patiently. Finally, when my turn arrived, the guy behind the window turned away and prepared to leave the room. I asked him hurriedly with much concern that I wanted to register and pay the fees. The guy again casually said, it is lunch time now and come back tomorrow. I told him that we still have 15 minutes before 12, which is the official closing time. He totally ignored me and left the room. I was still standing there staring at the empty window and trying to understand what had happened. By this time my light blue T-shirt had changed its colour to another shade of blue due to all the sweating. I bit disappointed, I went back home.

The next day, I reached the RTO Office before the official opening time at registration window, thinking that I would be the first person there. I would do my job and go back home in no time. But, I found that things don’t work that way at governmental offices. The guy came half and hour late and there was already a big line behind me with people cursing and swearing at the window. As his majesty arrived casually and totally disinterested, I quickly forwarded my application through the rusted iron grill of the window with the money. I was given an appointment for my written test. I was happy to clear the first stage. Enthusiastically, I asked the guy how can I prepare for the written test. He frowned and said better ask somebody inside the building. I tried to ask few people there but no one actually had my answer. Without wasting much time there, I returned home thinking I would ask my friends or my family. They have been driving cars and bikes since ages, they must surely know. Unfortunately and to my surprise, no one actually knew how to prepare for the written test as it seemed very alien to them, the concept of giving a written test for a driving license. Finally, I thought I will just go there and give the test. How hard could it be since I had been already driving since the age of 15? So, I finally waited for the day of the written test to arrive.

The rest of the story in the next part ....

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