Spare a thought for Jashodaben... and all form filling Indian women

by Padma Rao Sundarji

Instead of the mindless cacophony over Modi's marriage and what he filled out on which form, spare a thought for his poor 'wife' and the number of times the government school teacher has had to fill out her husband's name for things that were none of his business.

Our netas - both outgoing and incoming - should be urgently focusing on two far greater evils: the Indian bureaucracy's love for the 'father's name' and / or 'husband's name'.

I have brought up my son all by myself and thank the God of Crappy Forms that the 24 years of filling them out on his behalf are over.

Those days, I would determinedly strike out 'husband's name' and insert in bold, 24 pt-font and all upper-case: 'MOTHER AND SOLE LEGAL GUARDIAN'. On forms I still have to fill out, I continue to stonily ignore the 'husband's name', inwardly daring any clerk to ask me why I've left it blank.

 Spare a thought for Jashodaben... and all form filling Indian women

Reuters

To be fair, few have. But on the odd occasion they do, I virtuously point out that I've confessed who my father is instead. That usually settles the issue. In the Indian social hiararchy, pitaji - even a dead one - still bears greater weight than any husband. But even that took some learning. In the early days, when I'd leave both blank, it was a kind-faced lady at a bank counter who advised me to fill out my father's name. When I told her he was long gone, she said: "koi baat nahin, 'late' kar deejiye na!" As though the mere invocation of my father's ghost were enough to authenticate my existence.

India continues to live by the modicum: I have a father and/or a husband. Therefore and only therefore: I AM.

Now this is primitive stuff and we're a nation on the move, right? So I hope someone who will gain some clout in the new government is reading this and will set wheels in motion to initiate the change.

But why am I still plagued with doubt ?

Because even if forms soon allow for a 'mother's name', the introduction will be invariably accompanied by a whole new set of subcategories. It's that old and - to every Indian - familiar sarkari love for wholly irrelevant detail and the demand for gazillion mindless documents which are guaranteed to make the applicant abandon the application altogether. (That's the idea. How else can clerks sit around shooting the air-conditioned breeze in sarkari offices, doing nothing all day?)

And much like the silly debate on Modi's wife, the subcategories will stem largely from voyeurism, which, any Indian will admit - runs deep and sits snug in our veins.

Here's a taste. In sarkari English and (non)style. :

If 'mother's name,' Sub-Category I.C/33/ii/must be completed.

I.C/33/ii/ :

1. a. If mother's name entered above and 'father's name' left blank, complete:
i.Brother's name (Shri):....
(if older brother, enter PAN and Adhar Card No.:......)

2.Uncle (Shri):
(If maternal uncle, enter PAN and Adhar Card No......)

3.Were any of the male relatives above disabled /injured / unable to work?
(If yes, attach disability certificate in triplicate signed by a gazetted officer not related to applicant).

4. If 'mother's name' entered instead of father's or husband's name, tick off the appropriate box:
-child marriage or adult marriage?

(if former, attach copies of birth certificate attested by sub-divisional magistrate and the chief inspector of the local thana, tehsildar's office, collectorate and municipal corporation).

-If child marriage, state reason.

-If adult marriage, state reason. (Arranged marriage / "love marriage"/ Re-marriage : tick appropriate)

-Divorced/Separated / Consummated / Non-consummated
(If divorced, attach divorce certificate. Both parties must be present with their respective parents at the time of applying for this passport. 'Streedhan' certificate to be attached attested by 1a or 1b)

-If consummated, state reason:

-If non-consummated, state reason.
(ATTENTION: EXTRA SHEET CAN BE ATTACHED for both consummated and non-consummated categories. To be attested in triplicate by both parties and stamped by a gazetted officer and the respected (Shri) pandit/maulvi/priest who conducted the marriage.)

-If living separately, attach lease deeds / land deeds of both properties where both concerned parties are staying. (in triplicate and two affidavits stating the information is correct on stamped, notarized paper)

And so on.

To be fair and in some places like at the passport renewal office, mothers are surfacing like long-forgotten wraiths who lay written in invisible ink on forms for decades.

But we're nowhere there yet.

For a payment this female taxpayer sans father and sans husband made from her own money, earned by herself, the postman just brought the following:

"Received With Thanks from Shri Padam Roy."

Updated Date: Apr 14, 2014 10:25:16 IST