Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bureaucratic memories refreshed

"Kya chaihiye? ... jao yahaNse"
"I don't know"
"Aaj nahin hoga ... kall ana"
"Uni to ajke ashen ni"

This is what I wrote to the consul general at the Indian Consulate here in San Francisco. I got pretty riled up this morning but it may fade late this afternoon ...

Dear Sir,

I am an Indian citizen working here in California. My Indian passport is due to expire sometime next month and I was about to send my old passport along with the necessary forms and documents over to your office. I had a couple questions about some of the instructions that were not clear or obvious to me. I did not want to interpret them and send them over in an incorrect fashion and land up putting me and your office under any inconvenience. I came to my office at 9 AM today and tried calling the couple of telephone numbers listed on your website dedicated specifically for passport inquiries. Even after 9 AM, there was no one available to answer any of the phone lines. I then called the hotline and asked to be transferred to someone in passport division. The woman who picked up the phone did mention that this was a hotline, but even before I could tell her that I simply needed to speak to someone from passport, she started talking to me in the perennial unfriendly tone, simple trying to shut me off with hurried and unfriendly manner that all of us are so used to hearing back home. I immediately recalled my occasional visits to the government offices or colleges and universities back home where the general tendency was to shoo the “annoying public” away. I can say this with certainty and confidence that even if an alien (like me) were to call the most obscure place here in the US with the most irrelevant questions, they will always be spoken to in a polite and friendly manner, which was clearly lacking here. It was disappointing to realize that the basic courtesy of warmth and friendliness that these people extend to guests like us, we don’t get it from our own countrymen … our own family members, if you will.

On a more technical note, I believe instructions need to be clear and distinct, with no room for subjective interpretation. I was quite disappointed to see otherwise. For instance, the passport application form talks about affixing 4 photographs on the pages of the form but there are places for only 2. This immediately brings a host of questions into mind. Is 4 a typographical error and it actually should be 2? If it is not, what am I supposed to do with the other two photographs? Attach with the form using a binder clip. The website, on the contrary, mentions two photographs that adds to the confusion.

Moreover, the size of the photographs to be attached to the passport form (3.5 cm x 3.5 cm) does not conform to the US passport photographs standard (2 in x 2 in). It is obvious that since we are here in the US, in order to take photographs we will visit our local post office or Walgreen’s/ CVS. There should have been some instruction on what sizes we needed to choose. Should we take a 2 by 2 and cut it down or should we take whatever is closest to 3.5 cm?

One can argue with me that in all these we can use our common sense. In that case the whole process becomes subjective and the point of having any kind of directions or instructions becomes meaningless.

I hope I was not rude while I voiced my dissatisfaction and in all this you will be able to objectively identify my suggestions. As an Indian, I hold my beloved country to higher standards than I would to any other. I hope you will understand.

Kind regards,

1 comment:

HB Pencil said...

I like this post - did you get a response from the Consul ever?