Today Nandan Nilekeni must be feeling very happy that he could enlist one more member in his check list of his pet and much hyped project Aadhaar Card for all Indians. Who is that? I am, of course. I have become a true citizen once again. My life time achievement. I have got my Aadhaar Card.
Now I can ask for the basic necessities a man needs. Food, shelter and clothing. Not only these, but a legitimate gas connection, electricity, if at all the policy changes suddenly for a solar or nuclear energy connection, easy admission in schools for my grand children, as it was heard that the ministry of education is going to embark upon a new admission policy that at least five of the family ancestors of the child should be either educated or at least studied in that particular school and everyone should be an aadhaar card holder. So getting admission is put into further difficulties.
Anyway, today is the day to cherish as my govt. has spent Rs.5/- to send it by post to my address. In my life time, this is the first one I am getting from my govt. totally free, barring the trials and trouble I had to undergo to get myself safely reach in front of the photographer and the forensic expert. This I shall narrate later. Ours is a developed country of course. Even for my degree certificate, I had to shell out for the postages and the particular sized cover so that I could get my degree paper without a fold. But alas, the dispatch clerk ate away my cover and stamps and was kind enough to send the certificate with 100 folds in a very small non stamped cover. I must admit his clever brain. He might have been taught by his earlier peers or his own brain would have enough live cells to know from the postal rules that a non stamped envelope will reach the addressee as it will be looked into as insured letter and the postal dept will take utmost care to see that it “is delivered”. I had to bear the excess charges. This is the result of studying the” Eight fold path” of The Buddha from my college.
Now I shall narrate my success story (after so many failures) of getting this Aadhaar Card. If I have to explain in detail the days I had visited the Aadhar camp as in chronological order, it will extend to more than the list of time periods of all the Mughal kings who ruled India. It will surely take minimum 5 years for the student to pass the 8th or 9th standard if ‘Match the following’ according to time period is asked.
I shall shorten it by narrating few trips.
The important document for enrolment was a small strip of printed paper giving details of the censes 2010 that I am alive. Now it became a matter of life and death for me and my wife to establish that we both are alive. With great difficulty I got it dug out from a bunch of old papers of various govt. departments. I thanked my father in the heaven for his meticulous care in preserving the old documents. Otherwise how can I, in late 60’s now, have my father’s appointment letter in the erstwhile(1940) Ford Motor Co of Canada (Madras)!
With that treasure hunt of the strip I thought things will be easy. Docked with my electoral card (thanks to TNS) and PAN card (thanks again to PC) and the ration card (thanks to the old aunt working with PDS during 1984 without whom I would not have been recognized by the Tamil Nadu govt.) I made my first voyage to the camp. That day due to heavy rains, the roads were flooded. On the way I could see people lined up. I was trying to search for the tail end but after few kilometers, I dropped the idea.
Next few weeks there was heavy rush as I casually made a stroll in the afternoon. Iwas told there was a system failure due to power cut and hence the delay. “Wait until death” or “do or die” was the unwritten placard in everyone’s hand.
Then for few weeks we simply did not bother about this as we knew that it is a very long drawn process and this card is needed for all starting from the age five. A big sigh of relief. Definitely there will be children who reach the age of five everyday in India and this issue of aadhaar card will be never-ending till the earth goes into the black hole, the Chandrasekhar limit.
My neighbor who had lost his censes strip came to me and asked for my strip and took a Xerox copy. He was told that this way his censes number can be traced out at the camp. Thank god for the helping nature of the young men sitting before the computer at the camp. He went with his family and got the preliminary work completed. He explained all that happened about camera and the fingerprint, eye lash, iris, face and all.
Days passed. Then there was a debate or fight in the Supreme Court that this card is not mandatory.
But the vested interests were not ready to drop this issue so easily. The reason being that cores have been “sunk” to reap a harvest and the concept is from a top ranking business man and this card will be able to cull out any individual for so many issues by just clicking the mouse. With so much data loaded in the computer the ministry wanted to show that it can be put in their palm. At this point, I remember the remarkable dialogue from a Hindi movie. The villain is none other than our dear Prem hai mera naam, mujhe Prem Chopda kahthe hain. The dialogue: Duniya meri mutti Mei hum.
Coming back to aadhaar.One afternoon a passerby told me that the rush is over at the camp and now it is easy to get it done. Immediately I left with all my belongings. The officials will not ask for any document, if all of them are with us. I do not know whether it is Parkinson’s Law or Murphy’s law like one will get only the wrong end when searching for the right end.
It was 4 O’clock in the evening and I could enter the hall. There were 3 hubs and in each there were only few to be seen. I thought I was lucky this time. I stood behind the line were there was least. When one lady was at the verge of completion and the final print out was just coming out, the next lady in waiting dialed a number thro’her mobile. Within few minutes came a gush of people like a swarm of bees and occupied behind her, pushing me further back. When enquired, I was told they are her relatives. Again one among them dialed. I waited for some time in the line hoping against hopes. When the lady standing before me took out her mobile, I asked her: how many are for you? I could make out from the names she called out that it would touch near 10. She smiled, but I did not want to waste my time as it will be closed at 5:30. Here I learnt thoroughly the set theory and the subset within the set. Just like energy cannot be destroyed, maths also cannot be destroyed. It surfaces in some form through all walks of our life.
I had seen the Stone Age and tin age in front of ration shops during the 20th century. It was an incognito identification mark for the individual consumers. This virtual line up starts before sunrise. The colour of the tin and the size of the stone are known to each of them. By chance, if two tins are of the same colour , one will keep a stone above that or find out some dent or scratch on it. By this time the readers would have known that the tin is for kerosene. Technology has advanced, but, today one cannot leave his or her mobile as a virtual identification at these places. Stone Age was better. At times to tackle the unholy crowd as well. I returned leaving the line. The man behind me smiled at me. Poor man might have thought that he was lucky in getting my place. At this rate of phone calls, he will have to be there and there only.
After a month, my wife reminded me about aadhaar. This time I went. I could reach up to the point. There was only one lady before me undergoing the preliminary checks. The lady before me requested me to allow her age old mother sitting at a far away point to be included and I agreed.
At last my turn came. The man asked for the strip and verified in the computer. The next moment I am in the hot seat. Do not mistake the question answer session with the Big B. Here I meant hot seat due to the stuffy sweating ambience inside the room and the heat from the arc light in front of the camera. Photo session over, the person pressed a binocular like device in front of my eyes to take the Iris and then cleaning my hands, pressed each finger on a glass top and the monitor showed all the details. Then the name and address in two languages and after a final check, the final print out. A copy was given to me. The whole session took about 30 minutes for me. This was only an enrolment slip just to ensure that you can walk upright with an assurance that the final card will arrive at the doorstep after 3/4months.
I Came home jubilant and showed the print out. She asked what happened to my face. Then only I checked it again. My face looked totally black. Only an outline. My daughter said it is not my dad. I got confused and sat down. Now I could guess why few ladies were there after a dress up at the parlour!They were also sweating before the camera, but ,of and on, were wiped clean by their relatives.
After five minutes, wife came with a cup of hot coffee and touching my shoulder she said softly: I am your aadhaar and you are mine. I know you and you know me. Our daughter knows both of us. What more identification is required? Faint lines of a song from a bygone era film filled my ears. “Samsaaram samsaaram sakala dharmasaaram sukhajeevana aadhaaram” sung by Ghandasaala and AM Raja and tuned by Susarla Dhakshinamurty in the year 1950.
P.S. Except for my black photo outline, everything is perfectly visible in the card. Think of the face of an utter black man! It is genetically proved that there are at least seven similar looking persons roaming in this world. By chance, if one of them is a culprit, and the fingerprints also look similar, God alone knows what will happen to me. Anyway, wherever I go with my aadhaar card, my wife should accompany me to prove my identity and security. No Aadhaar, Niraadhaar.
Tail Piece: The greatest Card Game
Few days back, while walking, I happened to be in front of a school. The students were coming out. I noticed one small kid coming out running happily. His mother was standing outside the gate. From a distance I could notice so many items hanging around his neck apart from his usual bag and the water bottle. By the speed at which he was running, even the great Olympian Bolt will be defeated; I thought he had won so many medals from the recent competitions. When he came near me, I had the greatest shock in my life. They were not medals. They were the neatly laminated Hospital Card (where he was born), Date of Birth Card, Blood Group Card, Parent’s ID Cards, School Card, Van Card, Library Card, Lab Card, Citizenship Card, Ration Card, Fingerprint Card (for police verification, if any even in case of arranged kidnaps), and the much sought after Aadhaar Card. Thank God, he is yet to get his Electoral Card and Driving License Card and the Employer Job Card and the Debit and Credit Cards. My eyes gave a black out. The kid came rushing and removed these awards given by our nation for having given birth in this nation. He was asking his mother for how long and how far he has to carry these burdens! Mother was stunned! I too!
While we were still walking together, I casually (with a little seriousness) asked about the LKG and UKG Cards. She told they are at home. I told her to preserve them too as it may help her son to prove one day to say that he is an Indian!
Dated 17th Dec 2013 Time: after getting the card by post. A D-day to me.
Written Between 3 PM and 11PM with break