The elite school’s main gate stood tall, making me feel even shorter than my 5’7” height (it was 5’8” in my decade-old matrimonial ad, but I have shrunk over the years due to marital wear and tear). There were more fellow parents ahead of me in the queue than behind, a fact that made the butterflies in my tummy even more restless. In my left hand, I clutched my daughter’s LKG application form, filled painstakingly as well as painfully. I still wasn’t sure whether I had got it all right. Should I have ticked ‘Not applicable’ instead of ‘No’? Were my signatures on various pages exactly the same or did the letter ‘l’ at the end fluctuate alarmingly?
Slung across my right shoulder was a satchel containing all kinds of essentials — multiple proofs of identity/residence, my kid’s birth certificate, photos with/without date, a stapler, paper clips, gum (one for pasting, another for chewing) and above all, a Class-1 gazetted officer’s fake rubber stamp (just kidding).
Right ahead of me was a businessman, and I could figure out from his phone conversation that time was money for him. He was talking alternately to his driver and a cop who had stopped his vehicle carrying God knows what kind of ‘maal’. There was some paperwork problem, and the guy managed to do enough sweet-talk to avoid a challan, though it cost him a few hundred bucks to satisfy the cop. The matter resolved, he carefully scanned all pages of the school form to make sure there was no paperwork issue here.
As the clock struck 3 (mercifully pm, not am), the gate opened in slow motion, but the parents went the fast way towards the application counters. It was a now-or-never situation, and I cursed myself in Punjabi for having had a heavy lunch and not having worn my sports shoes. No wonder, I slipped even further behind in the queue than I was before the ‘race’ started. The businessman was now at least 10 places ahead of me, proud of his Milkhasque speed. Down but not out, I ignored him and started daydreaming about what sort of an officer I wanted my girl to become: an IPS (like Kiran Bedi), IAS (like Durga Shakti Nagpal) or IFS (not necessarily like Devyani Khobragade). I felt jealous of my parents, who had got me admitted without undergoing the ordeal of downloading forms, printing them on ‘Legal’ paper and staying awake the whole night to fill them with trembling hands.
At long last came my turn to face the scrutiny clerk. Having seen it all before, he flipped through the five-page form with a bored look. So far, so good, I thought. Then he started going through it all over again. And stopped. So did my heartbeat. “Where is the parents’ proof of residence,” he asked. “My child’s passport as well as birth certificate clearly mention her address,” I argued. “Obviously, we stay with her, or rather, she stays with us.”
“I’m afraid it’s not all that obvious. We need attested copies of your address proof as well as your wife’s, whether you all stay together or not,” he said, sounding even more severe than the passport office clerk who had asked me to prove that I was married — even though my born-in-wedlock daughter was present on the spot.
With all my logical arguments falling on illogically deaf ears, I rushed to a nearby college, whose principal I knew, and got the documents attested. On my return to the school, everything went off peacefully. The form duly submitted, I heaved a Himalayan sigh of relief. But deep down, I knew that submission was no guarantee of admission. The latter was a distant dream, dependent apparently on the luck of the draw after all the quotas had been taken care of.