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Siddhu Warrier | March 19, 2003 19:46 IST


I woke up that morning, feeling rather excited. It had nothing to do with the fact that I could now officially watch A-rated movies in cinema houses around the city; even a 10-year-old with Rs 20 in his hand can do that.

It was because I was finally old enough to drive.

I had looked forward to this day ever since I turned 17.

A week before the momentous occasion, I told my father, "As a birthday present, you can take me to the RTO [Regional Transport Office]."

There was a grim silence and a marked lack of delight on my father's countenance.

I asked him about getting an agent to help matters along. But my father belongs to that dying breed of people who do not believe in tweaking the system. I was all for such honesty in other walks of life, but considering the horror stories I had heard about the RTO, the straight and narrow was the last route I wanted to take.

I argued with him for the next few hours, to no avail.

On the eve of my birthday, my father and I set about assembling the various documents required to prove I was me. After three hours of frantic searching and frayed tempers, I had all I needed. I went to bed a happy (soon-to-be) man.

The next day, my father and I set off after praying to around six of our 3,33,000 Gods for deliverance.

On reaching the RTO, I purchased the forms from the nearby stall, stuck 16 of my photographs at the allotted spaces and carried them over to a bored-looking man sitting on a broken stool, looking every inch the babu (clerk).

He gave me a once-over, like I was a hardened criminal asking for parole. Then, in the exaggerated slow motion that is the hallmark of government employees, he pored over my papers. Five minutes later, he spoke with an amazing lack of clarity that is the hallmark of Indian government offices. "Proof of address invalid. No private inshoorance, only LIC."

I tried arguing with him: after all, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1989, did not anticipate the IRDA bill, 2000, and it was only because LIC was the only insurance provider in the dark days of Nehruvian socialism that only LIC policies were specified.

He repeated himself with an air of exasperated finality that comes naturally to our babus, "I said LIC palicy... Next."

A telephone bill or ration card could also serve as proof of address, but we had no ration card. And which just-turned-18-year-old has a telephone connection of his own?

My father looked at me, "Fine way to spend your birthday… Cutting class and wasting my time HERE of all places."

Visit number 2. We were armed with more papers now. The babu was seated at his usual spot, chewing determinedly. I pulled out, with a flourish, my Secondary School Certificate, which I was using as proof of my date of birth. I pointed out that my father's name in the Secondary School Certificate and the name in the telephone bill were the same. Since they had the same name, they had to be one person. Thus, I said, waving this irrefutable piece of evidence, my father is, quite simply, my father, and his address is my address. The babu shook his head: cross-referencing of documents was not possible for some reason too deep to be divulged to idiots like us!

"How can we know that you are his son? Affidavit from public natary required!"

How on earth were we going to prove our father-son relationship to a 'public natary', whatever that was!! A DNA test, maybe... My father said Rs 100 worked better; after all, DNA was not discovered until 1953 and our laws were written in 1845 or earlier.

But then, my father did not know a public notary. As we drove back home, exasperated, I espied a board: Bala Mohan, MA, LLB, Public Notary. We walked into the building, paid Rs 100 and grabbed the affidavit that proved I was my father's son. We could not go back to the RTO, for learner's licenses were handed out only during 10 and 11 am.

Visit number 3. It was two weeks later before I could cut class again. We returned, armed with the public notary's affidavit. I met the babu again. The stool was there, so was the paan.

I handed him the papers and checked my watch: it was not yet 11 am.

He did not open his mouth, just went through the papers for a long time, then pointed to the clock. It read: 11:03 am. He said, "Rules are rules… come on Monday."

Visit number 4. I was going to miss class again. I went to the RTO to claim my long-delayed birthday gift. Thankfully, this time, that particular babu was not in charge. And, surprises of surprises, I got my learner's license without a fuss.

Visit number 5. A month later, I went to take the test for getting my full license. Bureaucratic hassles apart, I had few problems until the examiner approached my car.

It was our own car and had no dual controls. The poor chap, fed on a diet of inadequate drivers from sundry driving schools, was fearful of sitting by my side despite my assurances.

When he finally got in and I started the car, he asked me whether I knew to drive. I was insulted. But his fears were unfounded. I got my driving license!

The system does work...

Design: Rajesh Karkera

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Number of User Comments: 21

Sub: the system!!....(gotta have the rite contacts!!) then it works exceedingly well

well sidhu u seem to have had quite a pleasant experience compared to some of the other of my friends..well as for me....getting my license ...

Posted by Jaskaran

Sub: Gr8 ..

Hi, It was great reading your dairy. I was imagining the " BaBu ",their pale look, the way they dress. Its not in RTO everywhere ...

Posted by Rupesh

Sub: It works the other way too

i had the same problem...i went to the RTO not 4 times but 6 i finally decided it wasn't going to be the way ...

Posted by Aditya

Sub: System

No, the system does not work ! ! Its full of people who : 1. Have no performance standards 2. Are corrupt 3. Are Lazy ...

Posted by Vikram

Sub: It does work

Hi, I had no problem with RTO in Chennai.. well atleat 9 yrs ago.. first trip got my Learners and second visit got my driving ...

Posted by Rajesh


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