Short Story: Verification
July 7, 2016 Leave a comment
On a Sunday afternoon, Balaji, an engineer by profession, was having coffee with his wife at home when the telephone rang.
“I am calling from the Hulimavu police station. Can I talk to Balaji?”
“Yes this is Balaji speaking.”
“Sir, you have to come to the police station for address verification for your passport. Can you come in the next thirty minutes?”
Balaji had applied for a passport a year back when his office required him to travel. He had also got it then, and had also traveled abroad six months back. So he wondered what this verification was about. But he decided against making any inquiries on the phone around that. “Better safe than sorry with the police” he thought.
“Yes sir. I can come. Should I bring any documents?” he asked obediently.
“Yes. Bring your passport and address proof for last six months.”
“Bank Statement or electricity bill.”
“Ok Sir. I will be there.”
And the line got disconnected. Balaji told his wife that he needed to go to the police station for verification.
“Why one year after you got your passport?” she enquired.
“I don’t know. I will go and check.”
He collected the passport and documents from his cabinet, quickly changed his clothes and got into his car. It was only a 10 minute drive from his home to the police station. He parked his car some distance away and walked towards the police station.
The police station was housed in a decrepit building which had two floors. There was a board outside which had a list of various departments and their heads and contact information. Another board listed the various crimes that had occurred in the area in the past six months. There was a police van in its premises where a couple of constables were chatting.
Balaji asked one of them “Address verification?”
They pointed to an office on the first floor. He walked up to the first floor.
“Where should I go for address verification?” he asked an orderly sitting outside the office. He pointed inside.
Balaji walked in and asked the officer sitting inside. “Sir, someone called me to come for address verification.”
“Who called you?” the officer asked sternly.
“Sir, I don’t know his name. He said he was calling from Hulimavu police station.”
The officer did not say anything after that. He continued with his work and put his head back into the file he was reading.
Balaji waited, thinking that he was probably working on his request. When nothing happened for a while, he asked again. “Sir, my address verification.”
“Wait” came the reply.
The police station looked like a busy place. There was constant movement of officers, constables and probably, criminals, thought Balaji. There were people looking into files for something, sitting on chairs and working on tables piled with what seemed like hundreds of files. There were old computers on some tables attached to noisy rickety printers and wires hanging from broken switchboards. In all this mess, Balaji wondered how work got done at all.
“Sir, when did you get the call?” asked a person who had just walked in to the office.
“Around thirty minutes back.”
“Last year’s case?”
The person, who Balaji thought was another officer, looked at some list in a register at the far end of the table.
The officer seemed to have found the name.
“Sir, you should have come 11 months back. Your papers are pending. We were going to send a negative report about you. Then you would have got into a problem with the passport office” he explained.
Apologetically, Balaji said “Sir I did not know I was supposed to come. No one called me.”
“Ok – sit inside. I will come.” The officer pointed to a cabin inside where Balaji went and sat. For thirty minutes or so after that, nobody came.
Finally, the same officer came back with a file and what looked like a form. He explained to Balaji that this was the verification form based on which the police station is supposed to send a report to the passport office.
“One negative report from us and your passport would be withdrawn.”
Balaji profusely apologised again for not coming earlier though he wondered how he could have come if no one called him. But he kept his thoughts to himself.
He dutifully answered the questions from the form that the officer asked him one by one, and handed over the documents he had got.
“Sign here” the officer said from time to time, and Balaji obediently followed the instructions.
After an elaborate procedure that lasted for around forty-five minutes, the officer filed the form and the documents.
“Go to the ground floor. Verification section.” the officer said, gave him the file and walked out.
Balaji went there and waited. He asked the constable seated there what will happen next. “Sir will come” he explained. He took the file from Balaji and kept it on the table inside.
Balaji’s observation of the busy activities in the police station took over again. Balaji waited and eagerly kept looking for the officer to return. No one came.
After around thirty minutes, an orderly walked in. Balaji who addressed everyone as Sir by now, asked him “Sir my verification?”
“Name?” he asked.
The orderly checked the files kept on the table. “Your file is ready” he announced.
With a sly smile, he came a bit closer to Balaji, and whispered “Keep two hundred rupee notes in the file. Courier charges.”
Balaji did not question it and quietly removed the two currency notes from his wallet and placed them in the file.
The orderly walked off somewhere. After five minutes, the officer arrived. Flashing a smile at Balaji, he picked up his file from the table and checked it again.
“Yes, Mr Balaji. Your file is complete. We will send the positive report to the passport office tomorrow.”
“Thank you Sir” said Balaji.
The officer then went on to explain how the country needed responsible citizens like Balaji and how most people don’t turn up for the verification and get into bigger trouble later with both the police and passport office later due to their own carelessness. The officer complimented Balaji on his proactive approach, and explained how he had avoided all that trouble now. He further volunteered to help Balaji if and when required in the future.
“Your verification work is done. You can go home now” he finally said. Both of them thanked each other again and Balaji then walked towards his car.
As he got in, his mobile phone rang. It was his wife who seemed worried that he was in the police station for so long, and asked him what took him so long. Balaji confidently reassured her. “My verification job is done. I am coming home.”