Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My search for a BBMP office to get a death certificate

This morning, it took me a good one hour to locate the corporation (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, or BBMP) office in Ulsoor, from where I had to get my mother's death certificate. But little did I realise that there was a pleasant surprise awaiting me.

I knew a BBMP office in Ulsoor. When I reached there, I didn't find the usual crowd, apparently because of the council elections, coming up on August 22. But on the first floor, where the office is, I found an elderly employee.

"No, we don't issue certificate. You have to check with the post office down," he told me firmly.

But, post office? I cross-checked with him. "Yes, post office, in the ground floor," he repeated quite calmly. So, I went down. But, I didn't have the guts to ask someone selling stamps and envelops where could I get a death certificate.

There was a man sitting on the steps at the entrance to the post office. Could be a localite, so I asked him if there was a BBMP office anywhere else nearby where I could get a death certificate. He said the BBMP office upstairs issues only ration cards, and the one in the Utility Building on MG Road issues birth and death certificates.

I headed there, not too far. May be about three or four km away. After looking around and asking a few people, I located the kiosk. There was a board 'birth and death certificates'. When I showed the documents to the gentleman there, he had a good look at it, and said, I had to go to Ulsoor.

I said I did go to the Ulsoor office, and that they had told me they don't issue death certificates. He looked a little puzzled. Then, I asked him if there was more than one office in Ulsoor, and if I could know which one exactly issues the death certificate. He dismissed me saying, ask someone there.

I was back at the very same BBMP office in Ulsoor. But instead of going up to the first floor again, I asked a seemingly knowledgeable man sitting outside on the steps (you always find a few outside government buildings), where I could get a death certificate. He guided me to a BBMP office, about a kilometer away.

I reached there, without any difficulty. But the person there said, the concerned office is another one, half a kilometer away.

Finally, I was at the right office. This was the BBMP Health Office. I walked into a small room, where there were two gentlemen sitting, one of them in front of a computer. With much anxiety on how many more times I would have to come there, I approached one of them.

"Please sit down," he told me with a smile as he took my documents. He read out my mother's name to his colleague sitting beside him at the computer, as I looked around the small room. Even before I could form any thoughts in my mind, he asked me, "How many copies?

With a triumphant look, he also added, "In no other office, you will get things done this fast!"

I was a pleasantly taken aback. "Three?" he suggested.

Apparently three originals is the norm, assuming these originals would be required for official purposes at places like banks. I said, "Yes, three," (so that I wouldn't have to come again, in case I needed more copies). I was still struggling to come to terms with the speed with which things had moved in a corporation office, which is normally associated with bureaucracy and lethargy.

In less than two minutes of me walking into this office, my work was done. All the particulars were there without any mistakes. Obviously, they had dutifully filled them all in well in time.

What's the fee, I inquired, with an obvious glee on my face.

"Rs 100, plus anything extra if you wish," he said, as he resumed his work.

I handed him Rs 120, congratulated him for the highly remarkable level of efficiency, profusely thanked him, and exited.

All the pessimism and the feeling that things will never ever improve in India, which had welled up within me during the past one hour, vanished into thin air in less than two minutes.

Despair not. Things have changed, they are changing, may be slowly. But there is hope.