Over the years, I have gathered enough reasons to believe that the biggest and the most deadliest type of punishment one can bring upon oneself in India is....hold your breath...an address change. I have figured this out the hard way. And even after years of changing my address (when we moved to our current place), I’m still cursing myself. I mean sure, you’d be happy you found your dream home. Sure, you’d be happy you’d start a new life in a new place. But what about the hundreds of documents you need to update?
Life used to be simple. No one asked for any type of photo ID or address proof. We, let me put it this way, were always innocent and nice citizens who never meant anything evil or anti-national.
Not today. Today, I think the burden of proving your innocence is squarely on you! You are by default a refugee/illegal immigrant/an alien from Mars/ Nirav Modi/ some sort of unknown entity, till you prove yourself otherwise. It was when I passed out of college did I realise that there is something called a Pan card. Ok then, that was taken care of. Then came the ‘Ration card is your ultimate proof’ era. But why? It was no document of citizenship or residence per se, even legally. But no, we make rules as we go, don’t we? And before you know it, you have a whole list of ID proofs — passport, voter card, bank passbook with your ugly mug stuck on it, and so on. But we came out of this phase unfazed. And just when we breathed a sigh of relief that all our documents are updated and done, it was time to shift!!!
It’s been six years since we moved in here. Six years. I palpitated as I made an excel sheet of things that needed updation for address change. Every time a document used to get updated, I used to feel like a knight who has just slayed a dragon (okay, maybe just a small one). Although the ‘process’ is now simpler, the goofiness stays! You’re supposed to produce any one identity proof and address proof, and there’s a whole list of those mentioned on the site. However, there comes a rider —if you do produce your ration card as your address proof, you have to back it up with another document from the said list.
What sense does that make? Beats me!
Anyway, like a nerdy student who attempts extra questions in the board exams, I went armed with extra documents too. You ask for one, I show you two. You ask for twelve, I’ll throw in fourteen! So that went off well. Then came the Aadhaar nonsense! If you ever have even an ounce of narcissistic feelings about the way you look, please glance at the photo on your Aadhaar card. I rest my case.
So, just when I was about to claim that all my documents are updated with the new address across all these years, it occured to me that our voter cards still had the old one. Not one to prefer standing in queues at offices, I chose to try out the online route for updating the voter id, which by the way is a very simple process. Two months later, I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call saying my new voter card had arrived in the area office and I can collect it. It’s a ‘smart card’ which looks like a sleazy lottery ticket, but I’m not complaining. I actually can choose the picture which gets printed on it, so compared to my Aadhaar card picture, I look like Adonis on this one. Out of curiosity, I asked the officer, in case I choose to update my family members’ cards through their ‘offline’ medium, — forms at their desks, what do I need to produce?
Out came a pretty long list including Aadhaar card, Pan Card, bank passbook, electricity bill and ration card. “But why ration card? Even after we have an Aadhaar?,” I naively asked him. And pat came the reply “Ration card is your ultimate proof”. And here we still stand punished for shifting.
(The writer is a comic creator,illustrator and animator)