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Beaurocracy vs Me: Strike one!

In our culture most women are discouraged from going to government offices, alone, and anyone with any connections wouldn’t dream of sullying themselves with such mundane matters as document attestation from the Foreign Ministry Office personally.

But this is 2015 and the government is touting women progressive policies and claiming to do away with the “sifarish”culture. I, with the ignorance of the uninitiated, and the arrogance of the untried, decided to venture forth into the bowels of bureaucracy without the benefit of an introduction of a civil officer “sahib”or a politician at my back.

Armed with pragmatism but fingering the green in my pocket, assuring me falling back on reality was an option, I wore my lab coat and prepared to brave this bastion of “civil” servants.

Once inside I was informed,by a guy who looked at me like I was an idiot,that I needed to bring my husband’s ID card copy also to verify the marriage certificate although this was not stated on any of the information boards. Feeling like one, I went home, got the ID copy and got the postal stamps needed to have my documents verified.

Having successfully crossed these hurdles, I went up and stood in the line to get my token: the process was quick and efficient and I was soon called forth. The elderly counter clerk, seemingly helpful, looked through my papers and told me he would ensure I got my papers back within a few minutes.

“Ma’am, please go to room no 3 and find out if this document will be attested by us.” he said suddenly, removing a No Objection Certificate from the pile.

Worried, I hurried to the said office where a lone clerk was stamping away for all he was worth. He directed me to another office, Mr. Naeem Farooq’s, their in-charge,who was quite civil but unhelpful in explaining they would not be attesting that particular document. While at it, he assured me when I voiced my main concern, as to if he could oblige me by expediting the process as I was a newly minted conscientious worker and needed to get to work.

He boasted,“Our time for turning over papers is 25mins.” and if I went upstairs I would find my papers were already attested. I was skeptical but hopeful and went back upstairs and reiterated my request for a faster service. The clerk said:

“Ma’am your papers have gone to room 3. Please go and tell them you have to get to your duty they will surely oblige you.”

Once again I traipsed down the stairs, and in room 3  asked about my papers. ”Go wait upstairs” was the response.

I said, “Yes I know that’s where I am supposed to wait but I was told you would oblige me if I requested you.” They told me to go wait upstairs like everyone. I said with some asperity:

“I am not asking for differential treatment. You guys are making me walk up and down, are shuffling me from office to office and now are refusing to accommodate me after promising me you would!”

The clerk slammed down the stapler, waved his hand and said loudly: “2 hours! You will get your papers not a minute before.”

I was furious and opened my mouth to argue but he rudely told me to leave.

Red in the face, fuming and armed with self-righteous indignation, I marched to Mr. Farooq’s office and knocked. Seeing me again he motioned to a chair and asked me what the matter was in an abstract manner, having watched the drama unfold on a 4 split screen LCD.

I said:” Sir, you said I could have my papers in 20 mins.Can you please help me out?”. He said:“You will get them in 2 hours.” I stuttered in shock and managed to say: “But you said you return everyone’s papers in 20 mins!” He said placidly:” Yeah but now you will get them in 2 hours which is what the stated time is on our website.” and marched away into the bowels of the scene of my humiliation.

I chastened walked out slowly and humbly asked one of the men stationed outside when the office closed.He, seeing the shell shocked look on my face, gently told me:

“2 or 2 30pm.Better send someone else with your token and id card.”

I walked out wondering what did I do wrong. At what time should have resorted to the money in my pocket? Should I have brought a male along or should I simply have sent a worker with an introduction from another civil servant?

No allowance was made for my gender, my profession or my reluctance/ ineptness to bribe anyone. Should I have expected none?

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