So Anna Hazare broke his fast. And just four days ago, I had the privilege of actually practicing what he’s preaching.
Here’s my story. And oh, it really feels goooood! Sit back – its a longish story.
Actors: BBMP Officials(Bangalore Municipal Corporation), Vidya Sury, Sury and Vidur (supporting actors)
Locations: BBMP office, Vidya Sury’s residence
Event/Storyline: Application for Khata Transfer
Both episodes begin with the demise of my Mom on February 8, 2010
Our usual encounter with the BBMP was once annually, when we paid our property tax. Now, our connection has turned virtual, thanks to the facility of paying property tax online. Many people have complained about various hassles with this facility, but maybe I am lucky, whatever – my experience with paying online at BBMP has always been smooth. So smooth, that I’ve done it for my friends, too. Printing their receipts, retrieving their records, you know, that sort of thing.
So when am talking about property tax, you’re wondering why I even mentioned my Mom, right? I am coming to that momentarily.
Our next close encounter with the BBMP came when Mom passed away, and we had to register her death and get her death certificate from them. This involved a procedure where we had to submit an application with the requisite enclosures, pay a small fee and follow up at the time they indicate. This is supposed to take not more than a week, usually.
Naturally, my neighbors scared the sh*t out of me, sharing their own experiences about how they were harassed endlessly and had to make close to 30 visits to follow up and pay money to get their deceased relatives’ death certificates.
You know – I have a policy. Expect the best outcome, and somehow it shows through in a positive way. Be pleasant. Have all the necessary documents. What could go wrong? Plenty, of course, but why anticipate that in the first instance?
So, armed with my own documents, I set out to the BBMP office in our area. It was not even a week since my Mom breathed her last, so cheerful I wasn’t. I was crying most of the time, especially when I had to say she was no more.
I approached the official in charge who amicably gave me the necessary application form to fill up. I filled it. I attached the required documents. I submitted it. I paid Rs.19/- I think, (could be a bit more) because I needed some extra copies. The guy pleasantly accepted the application and told me to contact him after a week. He gave me his mobile number. Nice eh? Yes, actually.
So, a week later I call this guy up and in my not-so-great-but-can-easily-sound-convincing-Kannada, I asked him when I can collect the death certificates. He says, “Banni, Madaam. Documentsu ready idhey” (Come, Madam. Your documents are ready). Excited, I said I would be over at 11.30 am. And went, with the chit of a receipt he had given me when I submitted the application, with Sury escorting me. (maybe he didn’t want to miss any action there). Sury was damn sure the guy would expect a bribe.
He smiled at me when I landed at his desk – and asked me to wait 5 minutes. I did. Then after concluding his business with the person he was talking to, he called me over and looked at the reference number on my bit of paper, and retrieved the file. He handed over the bunch of death certificates to me. I, with tears in my eyes, thanked him. He joined his hands in a namaste and smiled. Shocked as I was, I offered a tip. He smiled like he couldn’t care less. Mea culpa. I was weak, I was emotional, I was grateful. Okay, I was also stupid.
Obviously, if he had demanded something, I would NOT have obliged. As you will find out in Episode 2 here.
End of story. Total number of visits: 2. Mission accomplished.
(I did mention this is longish, so grab a cuppa your favorite beverage, answer nature’s call, whatever and come right back!)
So now that Mom had passed away, and our house was registered in three names: hers, Sury’s and mine. We were advised by a friend who’s a lawyer that we should transfer the Khata (in three names) to the survivors’ names. After procrastinating for some months, we finally decided to put together our application for the Khata Transfer to our two names.
1. I made a trip to the BBMP office and chatted up the lady there who told me what I needed to do. I wrote down a checklist, we had a bit of a Q&A and finally, armed with the application form for Rs.20/-, I returned home. Over the next two weeks, we got the necessary photocopies and originals of all the documents needed. Then we got the banker’s check for the transfer fee of Rs.500/- and went to the BBMP office.
2. There, I submitted the documents with the application form and got an acknowledgment. I was informed that the process will take 30 days, as mentioned in the application. I thanked them and left.
3. About a couple of weeks later, I got a phone call from a BBMP official who said he wanted to come over and “verify the documents”. That rang half a bell in my head, folks. But we could hardly say no. So I said, yes, please come over. And they did. Two guys. One acted like my living room was his office. Parked himself on the sofa and let off a reel of Kannada at me. Sury was home that day, so the whole thing turned out to be a bit hilarious for him. And why not? Because:
(BBMP Official, hereinafter referred to as He and Vidya Sury hereinafter referred to as Me – basically because it is too tedious to type it every time)
He: Madam, you have submitted application for Khata transfer
Me: Yessir ( I love to “Sir” them and they love it too)
He: So Madam where is your latest tax paid receipt.
Me: Here Sir. (I hand it over to him)
He: (shoving it in his folder) So Madam where is affidavit?
Me: In your file Sir
He shuffles through the papers, bypasses the affidavit, and I, pounce forth and say, There, Sir!
He closes the file, gives it to his partner and sits back for the real reason for the visit.
He: Madam, so how much are you giving?
Me: What sir?
He: Khata transfer will take time, so many things involved, so many people must be attended
He: No, madam, how much you will give?
Me: how much? I didn’t understand (I pretended to be an echo in the Swiss mountains)
He: will you give 5?
He smiles, looks at partner, looks at Sury ingratiatingly and asks me again, rephrasing his question.
Me: you mean 50 rupees?
He (guffawing): what, madam!! (sarcastically, because he is probably wondering if I was dropped on my head as a baby)
Me: then? 500 rupees? but sir, I already paid fees of Rs.500 for the transfer!
He: ayyo, not that madam, for us. 500 ah? hahahahha. 5 thousand.
Me: What!! (I look shocked and wide-eyed, as if I’ve never heard of bribing, while Sury is desperately trying to control his laughter)
He: Madam, 5 thousand is not for me alone. There are many people to take care of.
Me: Sorry sir. I will not pay.
He: (obviously shocked) What, madam? I will ensure you will get in 30 days
Me: But the application already says I will get in 30 days.
He: (Laughing – I can’t be that stupid, right? I couldn’t possibly believe that the govt. would keep its promise, right?) That won’t happen madam. How much you are willing to pay?
Me: Nothing sir. No offense meant, but I hope you understand (like hell he did)
He: Okay, madam that’s your final?
He: It will take many months
Me: I don’t mind
He: Okay. We will write to you.
Me: Thank you so much sir.
He exits with his partner. No sooner do we close the door than Sury and I laugh our heads off. Fact is, we’re not really in a hurry to do the Khata Transfer. We don’t need to do it unless we’re selling our house, and that’s something we have no plans to do right now.
Life goes on…and 2 months pass. Sury reminds me from time to time about the Khata and I in my own irritating way, respond with a yeah yeah. And so, on August 16 (we applied in the first week of May) imagine my surprise when I get a call from BBMP about my application! The guy chides me about not following up – and asks me to visit. I think, here we go and fix up a time.
I have the sense to save his number and call him before going only to be told he is not in his office. Then, double surprise – he actually calls me back and says to come over at 2.30. Weirdo that I am, I say that’s not possible as I have to go pick up Vidur from school. So, maybe just a little exasperated he asks what time I can go to his office. I say 3 pm. I am thinking, I’ll pick Vidur up, head over to his office en route and return home.
Which is precisely what I do. Vidur and I arrive at his office, and I identify myself. He nods us in and is busy talking to two other people. These government officers are like that. Normal. Then he looks at me smiling like an idiot with my helmet under my arm and says he has applied for half the day off – and hence he called. Great. So considerate. Really. Not being sarcastic you know.
Then he goes through the files on his table and pulls out one. Ours. And opens it, tears the top sheet off a bunch and gives it to me. Our Khata transfer form. He asks for an acknowledgment. I give it. He looks at Vidur and asks, Kendriya Vidyalaya? Vidur says yessir. He asks which one. Vidur tells him. I thank him. I smile. Vidur smiles. He smiles. We thank him again and leave. With our document.
End of story: Total number of visits: 3. Mission accomplished. Bribes paid: nil. At least at this level.
Our next thing is to get the Khata Extract. But that’s something we’ll do, in the next few weeks.
Will Anna Hazare not be proud of me?
This is my true story. No Khatas, BBMP Officials or Currency notes were injured in the making of this story
And I am grateful to everyone who’s still with me, reading this. 😉