AADHAAR – A CRISIS OF IDENTITY
Can you believe it? I still do not have an identity in this blessed land. Yes it is a serious crisis that I face now. I do not have even a ration card and my application for a voter’s id is still pending, all because I had chosen to live in different parts of this country. I did have a ration card when I was serving in a different state of this great land, but the only problem was they had changed my name from a south Indian name to a sindhi name. They had even shown my age as being ten years younger to which of course I had no have objection. Rather than undergo the trials and tribulations and the rigours of asking for changes to be incorporated I let it stay as long as they recognised me at the ration shop as being the one mentioned in the card and gave me my share of the rations. I was also afraid that if I had opted for the difficult exercise of incorporating the changes they would have made me into Subbusingh in which case I would have to start wearing a turban. I realized my folly only when I came back to my blessed dammed state after retirement. A senior citizen, with no identity. Have you seen the movie ‘No Country for Old Men’? When the Aadhaar card was announced I thought that at last I had the opportunity of becoming a citizen with an identity in my blessed country before I called it a day. But it was not to be for when I reached the counter window the man there looked up the list in the computer and said “sorry but your name is not listed in the last census”. I protested and said “how can that be? I distinctly remember that the person had visited my place when the census was being taken and as proof put a sticker on my door”. But of course he admitted that sometimes they just put the sticker and go away. I protested again saying it could not have happened like that since the sticker was on the door and he could not have come in without me opening the grille door which is always kept locked. He was all politeness and said “sorry sir, but you please fill up the form which is being distributed in another counter and submit it after filling up all the details”.
When I went there I was asked to come back after a week as the forms were exhausted (of course by that time I was also in the same condition). On further enquiries I was told that two three months after submission of the form they will come for validating the same. I managed to get a Xerox copy of the form from one those kindly souls, who were lucky enough to get a one. Ever since, I have been sitting with that form trying to decipher and fill up all those fifty odd God dammed columns, also whether to fill it up in English or in the vernacular. The only redeeming feature of this entire exercise was that I was not alone in all this for I found that there were quite a number of senior citizens even senior to me, who were undergoing the harrowing experience of standing in a line for about two hours with the same result.
Decades have passed, we have moved away from being manhandled by men to being manhandled by men with computers to aid them. I am reminded of my experience in a government ration office perhaps three decades ago. I still remember the scenario, the smell of paper- old papers, brown papers, stacked up folders, too much paper. The hall was filled with people, all waiting to be called by the official they had been asked to meet. The air was filled with cacophony and at the end of the hall was a cabin inside which I presumed the official was sitting. Every time a person was called in he disappeared or so it seemed, may be there was an exit at the back. I had been waiting for about half an hour when I heard the man next to me snoring, he had gone to sleep. We had been asked to sit on benches provided with the kind courtesy of the (mal) administration to await our turn to be called in. Whenever the peon sitting outside the cabin used to get up, my hopes would arise and when he sat down so did my hopes. By now an hour had elapsed and I felt the urgent calling to relieve myself. But I did not know where the loo was. I stuck to where I was for fear of losing my place in the queue. The person next to me got up surveyed the entire scene and went back to sleep, blessed man. Another hour had passed and I couldn’t bear all this waiting any longer. So I summoned up all my courage and stood up and walked out of the hall. I found the loo.
Looking back and in my present state it all appears Kafkaesque or simply Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’. I had only read them then, now I find myself as part of the play. So ultimately I console myself saying “How does it matter whether you have an identity or not, as long as you know that you belong here?”