Colours of Life
My Tryst with Passport
Getting Passports renewed
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Our passports had to be renewed as the validity lapsed last January and it needed a personal visit to the Regional Passport Office Kolkata for biometric registration that we had earlier got done while obtaining the US visa and also for Adhaar card. I came to learn from Raman that a Passport Seva Kendra: Gangtok was on the anvil and it may not take long to be here in our neighbourhood at the Manan Bhavan / Secretariat just in front of our residence, Rachna. Well that was a welcome news good enough to wait and look forward to but when this was actually going to happen and how long we were to wait was yet uncertain and unknown. Soon, I gathered that the office premises were ready and it might start functioning anytime now. Actually the process of starting a Passport Seva Laghu Kendra (PSLK) here was understood to have started early last year but for the initial hitch, it was not until towards year-end that the things started looking bright and possible with an officer was available, ready to man it and sent for some in-house training perhaps. Finally the inauguration took place but it needed some time to go about and it was not very long when we decided to apply online and present ourselves on the fixed date of appointment. It is really a spacious place well-kept with neat and clean accommodation to get though in the first mezzanine floor of the Manan Bhavan, where the Secretariat is functioning following the 2011 Himalayan Earthquake on 9/18.
As per rules mentioned in the application form we were to bring a recent photo in the size of 4.5cm x 3.5 cm with white background both the ears seen no grinning or frowning face. So, we waited for a sunny day to go out as it was raining continuously for past few days and reached an old establishment on the Tibet Road much knowing that many such digital laboratories had come up conveniently located on the Mahatma Gandhi Marg. There was no light but they agreed to take shots to deliver the print after the power supply resumed. We sent our man Rakesh to collect the photos since we had paid some advance for the amount they asked for. Our niece Binnie had come and later her father visited on way back home from the office; both taken aback learning that we paid Rs.200/- for eight copies passport photos as the current price all over the town was just Rs. 60/- only. On enquiry we were told the photos were already delivered and our man returned and he refused to acknowledge the lower rate. So, I demanded a cash memo for the job done but he adamantly refused and instead offered to refund our money back provided the photos were returned to them much to our inconvenience. I asked for the owner to talk about the issue as he was known to me during my days in the Information and Public Relations Department in 1995 but was told that he had taken over from him for past three years. Not willing to pay any penny more than what was the right price it deserved, we preferred to get the money refunded. We decided to take the trouble of visiting the town yet another time again that evening as it was nearly two months I was last in the town and here today for the second time in a day and the next day we had the appointment!
When in town that Wednesday afternoon I happen to meet former colleague Tara Prasad Ghimiray (born 17 Dec 1938) with his sweet little granddaughter back from her school. I was glad to hear from him that he was enjoying reading my articles regularly. Besides he spent time reading newspapers and was into religious books these days. He shared with me that he was into one of the four Vedas these days for understanding more of the Holy Scriptures. He was for a long time in the Income Tax and Sales Tax Department having joined the service on 25 Feb 1957 and did a stint as the District Collector (West) and in Law Department thereafter. He retired as a secretary in the Department of Cultural Affairs and Heritage, where he was once in a cultural troupe to visit a foreign country. I was posted twice as the secretary there and served earlier for a while as a joint secretary in the other to keep in bay the Indian income tax in the wake of the gift racket that saw some of the local businessmen apart from some Bollywood figures embroiled in it. Many of his chess and bridge playing friends, viz. A. C. Dutta*, P. S. Subba*, L. G. Ganeshan* and R. K. Gupta* were no more around but gave me to understand that he was still following his favourite game of chess often involving himself with the body promoting chess here in Gangtok to fetch him some awards as a veteran player as well. He must be practising yoga too that I forgot to ask him this while he complimented finding me in good shape and spirit as I congratulated him for well maintaining his health as I find him no change whatsoever in his features and appearance in spite of the age.
I find the Memories Digital Studio to be the place wherefrom I purchased Intex headphone last year. They too had a rate chart prominently displayed on their counter like in the previous one where all the digital photo units of Mahatma Gandhi Marg had signed together on the 16th October 2013 fixing the rate for their services. The rate fixed for the passport photo was Rs. 60/- like my niece told us and not Rs.200/-. For the printout of our photo shot taken by Raman they had demanded Rs. 200/- and for the frame Rs.650/- but I got it printed paying Rs. 70/- only at the Memories and framed for just Rs.300/- at Thaaro Line within minutes as we watched the work being done promptly. We wanted also to see the beautification work going on for the footpath there with black Kota stone rough-side up though in a slow pace someone rued. It was not surprising to find the Digital Imaging unit of Tibet Road too as one of the signatories in the rate chart – I could only say to myself anything was possible these days and permissible here in Gangtok so better go by the maxim Jaago Grahak, Jaago!
To be concluded next week - Passport Seva Laghu Kendra, Gangtok.