And... Hello everyone.. Did you guys miss me?? :P I am back after yet another disappearing act. I have a very good reason this time around I swear!!! You see, I was with S in Singapore. :) I had some stuff to take care of and had to make a quick trip. Although S had planned on having me around only for a couple of days, I decide I would stay and drive him up the wall for a couple of weeks. And that is exactly what I did. Heh.. I also managed some shopping and plenty of gorging on lovely food when I was there. And I realized something- I miss Singapore. I miss the place, the convenience, the ease of getting from point A to point B, the awesome food that is available at every street corner, the ease of getting things done, the freedom, the climate and what not. Of course S is there and that makes me miss the place even more. But these other factors also count. And the fact that I was going back to Singapore after a gap of a few months made me even more nostalgic I guess. To be honest, two weeks went by too quickly and now I am back home and preparing for yet another change of scenery- I will update you guys on that in a week. :)
Now, every time I move out of my country and come back, it gets me thinking. The shopping and restaurants notwithstanding, there are millions of tiny little things that I know can be done in my country and are not being done because of pure laziness on the part of the governing bodies or the people. The most important thing on my agenda in Singapore was to get my Dependant's Pass renewed. My DP is like my National ID when I am in Singapore. It is also my visa whenever I choose to make a trip that side. The validity of a DP is for 2 years. When its time to renew the pass, the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore alerts S's office and they ask us to make an online appointment with the Ministry and get our passes renewed. The online appointment bit takes a couple of minutes maximum. All the other documents we need are taken care of by S's company. So all we have to do is go to the Ministry office on the date and time specified and get the formalities done. Now, if you guys are thinking this is a full day or a half day job like it usually is if you are in India, you are mistaken. Our appointment for one thing was for 8.30 am- yes some government offices in Singapore start their operations by 7.30 am in the morning. We went their with a copy of our appointment details. We were asked to scan the letter, which acts like a queue number and were asked to take a seat in the waiting lounge. We had hardly sat down when our names were called. Off we went with our old passes and passport and related documents and in 10 minutes our passes were renewed. We were asked to proceed to another counter a few feet away to collect our passes. By 8.50 am, we were out of the building with our brand new passes. That, ladies and gentlemen is the fastest I have ever gotten anything done in any government office.
In India, government offices are usually worse than the deepest levels of hell. The office claims they open at 10. The personnel get there by 11 if you are lucky, and if you happen to be the first in queue, you will get your stuff done hopefully before its time for lunch. Else you might stuck there till 4 or 5 in the evening. I still remember how difficult it was getting my passport. I had applied using the tatkal scheme which required me to submit my documents in person. Since I have always been wary of government offices here, I had consulted a travel agent regarding the documentation and stuff before I went. On Day 1 of my ordeal I arrived at the Passport Office by 4 am in the morning and was shocked to see that a queue had already formed in front of the gate of the passport office. I stood in queue till the office opened around 9 or 10 I guess. Then, the queue moved to the grounds of the passport office. It was almost 12 by the time I got to a counter and then the lady manning the counter told me that the addresses on my birth certificate and the rest of my documents don't match!! I explained to her that my current residence was built only when I was 11 but she wouldn't buy it and shooed me away.And this, after standing in queue for almost 8 hours!! I trudged my weary back to the travel agent and asked them what to do. They called up some of their connections at the passport office. (I knew the travel agent personally, so that helped!) And the next day I was there again, at 4 in the morning, with all my documents. This time around I succeeded in submitting my application.
To be honest, I had never before in my life felt such a sense of accomplishment. Anyways, you get the picture- I had to spend 2 days to submit an application. The same happened when S was here last time to renew his passport- he had to spend an entire day at the passport office to submit his documents. And recently one of my friends had to rush from Bangalore to Cochin to get her daughter's passport in order and it was all in vain since they gave her some half- baked excuse as to why it couldn't be done on time. And as far as government offices in India go, the Passport office is one of the better run ones. Am sure everyone has their own horror stories to share. :)
Another thing I loved about Singapore this time around was the automated Immigration clearance system at the airports. If you hold a pass issued by the Singapore government like I do or are a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident, you do not have to stand in queue for someone to verify your document. The procedure is extremely simple. You scan your passport- the page with your photograph and once that is recognized by the system, you proceed to a fingerprint scanner (IDs in Singapore have your fingerprints on them-biometric they are.) and once the system recognizes your print your immigration clearance is complete and you are free to proceed to your gate. All these facilities in a country that is not my own and when I get to Cochin, I have to stand in queue for 45 minutes to get my passport checked and stamped!!
There are the other tiny things I mentioned too- the availability of great shopping spots, fresh ingredients and herbs and what not at affordable prices, the freedom of being able to wear what you want and not have people ogle at you, the freedom of walking into a hotel or a pub and ordering a drink, the freedom of being able to walk back home from a movie at 2 am and feeling confident that you will get home safe, the security at knowing that you can flag down a random taxi and you will surely get home safe and sound, the availability of basic services like power and water- I could go on. But am sure you get the picture.
And I refuse to buy the argument that Singapore is a small country and things are easier to implement there. Singapore is a well planned out city and it has managed to become one of the most developed countries in the world in spite of having zero reserves of any natural resources. It could have ended up like any other minuscule island on the globe. In fact, Singapore had in fact initially partnered resource rich Malaysia to kick start its progress but race conscious Malaysia had kicked them out. Singapore has a come a long way from there and if we set our minds to it, so can we- cut out the bribery and red tape and cronyism and we can slowly start making progress, And a country our size, with the resources we have, can go an awfully long way.
Anyways, what started as a lighthearted post has morphed into a critique on governing I guess.. Heh.. But this is just to herald my homecoming and to let you guys know that I will be back with more inane chatter starting today. :D So, until tomorrow, stay safe guys.. Love y'all!! :)