Q 1: How much time does it take for a flimsy, fairy-light ,12x 8 cm object to travel across 50 sq ft?
Q 2: Can the object gain ‘weight and age’ at the end of its journey?
Answer 1 : Two hours (minimum).
Answer 2: Yes. It gains ‘weightage’.
The agent (Yes, I believe in zero-corruption, when & if it suits me) asked me to carry original Passport and original Visa (Err… the visa sits within the passport. I wanted to show off, but refrained wisely), 3 photos (which usually means keep 3 plus 2 extra. Just in case.) and Yourself in person, Madam.
I calculated the Luggage I needed to tag along. In addition to the above essentials, I added
 goggles (Indian Summer at mid-day),
 a 5-star chocolate bar (weightless, portable and apt to combat hypoglycemia),
 a water bottle (only 200 ml. The human kidney produces urine at the rate of 1 ml per min. The capacity of an average bladder is 500 ml maximum. 60 official minutes, plus 60 unofficial minutes, plus travel time, so …).
The agent arrived dot on-time. This promised to be a good day! He beckoned and I followed. A serpentine queue curved outside Window 56. He contemptuously breezed past it; waved me into an empty room and seated me in a chair.
I felt the baleful glare of at least 15 pairs of queue-eyes.
‘This officer will arrive in 10 minutes. Take signature. Then go back to window 39 and call me.” agent said before he sauntered off for another job.
I heaved in relief, since the 15 pairs of eyes waited outside another officer’s cabin. Technically, I was not gate-crashing into their line. I pointedly turned my chair the other way and felt the bubbling undercurrent of irritation die down.
I observed the applicants covertly. All well-educated, well dressed, all of them clutching a sheaf of papers in one hand and a Blackberry/Apple iphone in the other. All waiting in the impatiently-patient impotent frustration of Indian applicants to Government organizations.
2 men tried to sneak ahead and were slammed back in their place with a ‘Excuse me, we are standing in queue.” The tone was polite, so were the words. I wondered how soon both could degenerate into a street collar-fight. But, alas, the 2 trespassers moved back sheepishly.
‘Indians!’ I shook my head in righteous disapproval, just as the khaki-clad peon approached me, “Wait outside Madam.” he suggested .
‘Umm, I am waiting for this officer.” I pointed to the yawning chair.
“Same queue. Wait outside.” he said firmly.
The front-row grinned in sadistic glee. Thankfully, the ones beyond them could not witness my fall from grace.
I kept my face carefully expressionless and whipped out my mobile. I dialed my home number, knowing perfectly well there was nobody at home. “Hello, hello. Can you hear me ?” I spoke to my answering machine.
I moved out of the room nonchalantly, frowning at the mobile screen. “No range in that room” I mumbled to myself as I moved out. I cast a furtive glance at the queue tail. It had doubled by now.
I re-called the agent. Then I meekly sauntered somewhere close to the end of the line, still pretending to be on that urgent call. To think I could have been number 16, and now I was number 31 in the queue!
If I was a spectator to this circus, I would have sneered, “Serves you right . A lesson well learnt and well deserved.” For obvious reasons, I didn’t say it now.
Finally, mera number aa gaya! The peon held a barrier-arm at the entrance, “Virginal… ” he said. I scanned his face, wondering whether the one-worder ended with a question or full stop. I beamed him my most pious expression.
He held up his palm, “Give.”
My agent nodded at my ’Original’ documents and I got the cue. I whipped them up triumphantly. This man was not a peon; he was the all important middle-man! He scanned through my papers and waved me toward his in-a-foul-mood officer.
It struck me at that painful moment that I had forgotten my pen. I panicked, wondering if I would have to borrow a pen from this bulk of frowns & scowls.
I kept my best smile ready(just in case); but he had eyes only for the papers. He skid a stamp pad across to me. “Right thumb.” he snapped.
And to think I wasted years in education! I swallowed all of my Degrees & Certificates and planted my thumb impression on the said place. Then scurried out of the room.
My joy was short lived. It was time to join another queue. For another signature.
My paper required exactly two hours to move within a 50 square feet room. It gained ‘weightage’ with every (in total 3) signatures. It shrunk in size and expanded in significance. Good old Indian magic!
I finally emerged with 1 license, 1 purple thumb and all my Virginals intact. I could teach Alexander a thing or two about Triumph. No wonder he faltered in India- it’s because he forgot to carry an international license!!!
Suffered a similar experience? Utilised your time to find humor in the situation? Is this unique to India or a ubiquitous quirk?