My uncle always thought Indiana Jones was an American born and brought up in India. And we, my uncles wretched relatives, would always take special care to protect this thought of his from going public.
In fact, he was quite an item in the family. Mispronouncing names of famous people, messing up bus numbers, countries and their capitals and most importantly, sports. He would often comment on cricket — Ke jitchhe re? — even when the side batting first was still at it.
But it was the same man who gave me my first lesson in written humour. Indirectly, though. He was always fond of Rafi numbers. And though he didnt quite have the voice for them, he would more than often sing those, much to the agony of my neighbours. Of course, a few would envy him too for his impeccable collection of lyrics booklets. The search for which took us to one of the most famous roads in the heart of Calcutta one lazy Saturday afternoon, way back in the 80s.
Free School Street was by then corporationally named after Mirza Ghalib. There were shops stacked with old gramophone records, birthday balloons and streamers, apart from a corner shop selling hot cheeken pattis.
And just behind that delicious corner was a narrow, dingy lane leading to a shop called Maqbool Book Store with the two Os of Maqbool conspicuously missing. Thats where my chacha had taken me on my 14th birthday and thats also the place I had picked up one of my first joke books from. Hasi Ke Fuhaare — cheesy as it may sound — had a couple of gems as well. And I dedicate one of them to the Election Commission of India.
Two men met at a bus stop and struck up a conversation.
One of them kept complaining of family problems.
Finally, the other man said: You think you have family problems? Listen to my situation. A few years ago, I met a young widow with a grown-up daughter. We got married and I got myself a stepdaughter. Later, my father married my stepdaughter. That made my stepdaughter, my stepmom. And my father became my stepson. At the same time, my wife became her father-in-laws mother-in-law! Much later my wifes daughter (who is also my stepmother) had a son. This boy was now my half-brother because he was my fathers son. But he was also the son of my wifes daughter, which made him my wifes grandson. That made me a grandfather to my half-brother. This was nothing until my wife and I had a baby. Now my sons half-sister (my stepmother) is also a grandmom. This makes my father, my childs brother-in-law, whose stepsister is my fathers wife, I am my stepmothers brother-in-law, my wife is her own childs aunt, my son is my fathers nephew and I am my own grandfather! And you think you have family problems!
In modern times, you dont need a cheesy joke book to tickle your funny bone. The Election Commission is amusingly at your service. 24x7, 365 days. For them, this is common practice. With almost every registered bona fide citizen of one of the weirdest countries in the entire universe. Twisting peoples identities and relationships, for reasons unknown.
The Voter ID card — quite an item, eh? Well lets just take a look at some ORMs (oft-repeated mistakes), shall we?
1) Your name spelt wrong
(the most common one).
2) Number errors in your address.
3) Sexual mistakes. Like you are Partha and you have got F written under your name; you are Sonali and you have got M smiling at you.
4) Your father is your husband or vice versa.
5) And worst of all — your photograph bears the faintest resemblance to you.
No matter how great your photographer is, no matter how good the resolution appears to be, trust the authorities out there to give you a complete makeover.
In fact, you could consider yourself gods luckiest child if you dont go like Omigosh… is that really me? after looking at the card for the first time.
And then begins the drama of convincing the authorities that the card needs a rectification. First they never seem to agree and admit that there is a problem. They shall look at you in person and then look at you on the card. After a few seconds of stoic silence, they shall re-look at you in person and then shift to the card again and after some more pensive moments, declare confidently, Keno? Theek-i toh achhey. Ei toh chena jachche.
You shall naturally argue, try to drive home your point, to which they shall reluctantly respond with the arduous task of phorm phill-up, then the very obvious phorm joma and then the re-bheriphicashun (re-verification) with the order from the high command to stay at home from tomorrow till god-knows-when. And when you ask them for a tentative date and time, all that you hear from them is: Je kono din jete paare, aage theke bola impossible.
But then look at the brighter side. You have a card that even a Gandhi, a Nehru, a Patel, an Azad and a Bose didnt have.
we are like this only!
So why bother, brother? As long as we have a card and a voters list with our name plastered on it, lets say Hallelujah.
As for our identity, its written right across our faces.
Every time we spit on the road, we are Indian. Every time we collapse on the cricket field (after some Sachins exit) from 267/1 to 296 all out, we are Indian. Every time we carelessly blow the horn in front of a school or a hospital, we are Indian. Every time we smoke with abandon in a no-smoking zone, we are Indian. Every time we stop a bus in the middle of the road with just one hand, we are Indian. Every time we witness a fraudulent Hasan Ali Khan getting bail while a certain Dr Binayak Sen waits behind bars in vain, we know we are truly Indian.
Even after that, if you still feel the revered laminated piece of paper makes your life peaceful and secure, then just forget about the mistakes. After all, of what good is an identity card if it cant give you this much of an identity crisis?