Before the advent of digital India, proving one’s identity on relocation proved to be tough. Some years ago, on arrival at a new location, my wife wanted to light the hearth. I went to the cooking gas dealer to register. A clerk named Raju scrutinised the surrender certificate and demanded proof of residence.
“What kind of proof?” I asked.
“Bring your ration card,” said Raju.
I informed him that I was yet to obtain a ration card in the new place. He expressed his helplessness. I was baffled. I appealed to the manager. He supported his clerk. I taxed my brain for some way out. I asked him if my transfer order and the house owner’s letter who let out his house to me would suffice. The clerk asked me to bring the said papers.
I went home and returned with the papers. His face brightened. I mistook it for succour. Little did I realise that he had discovered a fresh snag. He told me that the gas connection was in a woman’s name and he required her proof of residence. I pointed out that the said woman was my wife and my name suffixed her’s in the surrender certificate. I assured him that she was staying with me still.
“You would have read Ramayana. Wives in this country follow their husbands even if they are banished to jungles for 14 years,” I said. The clerk insisted on documentary proof.
“Get a certificate signed by a gazetted officer to the effect that your wife stays in the address in which you claim to stay,” said Raju. I did not want to waste a few more days in locating a gazetted officer. I tried a new approach. “I have the surrender certificate of my ration card signed by a tehsildar. At serial number two in the certificate, my wife’s name figures. Will that suffice?” I asked.
The clerk was confused. Not being sure what proof he really wanted, he agreed. I went home and rushed back with the relevant papers. I still had not reckoned with the last objection Raju had up his sleeve. He demanded that the woman in whose name the gas connection stood should appear in person and sign the papers.
I went home and like all harassed husbands, derided my better half for making me run around. She was eager to light the stove and to meet the fellow who could drive her husband up the tree. So, she cheerfully went to the gas agency and signed the papers.We thanked Raju for all his help and wished to know how soon we could get a gas cylinder.
“Within a week,” said the clerk.