The FNU conundrum

I had a memorable experience the other day at the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) Bangalore and i thought it was worth sharing. I was one of the chosen ones with surname being blank in the passport. I was skimming through various articles around the internets about VISA procedures, getting a driving license in the United States and pretty much every random article pertaining to studying in the US. That is when i came across this conundrum of FNU - First Name Unknown. This typically happens when your family does not have a surname like mine. Up until my 10th grade, my name in all the records goes by S L Varun. Later, my pre-university board changed it to Varun S L. All my academic records beyond that point, state my name as Varun S L. At the time of filling up the form for my passport, I remember reading an instruction that the initials in the name must be fully expanded. Since I was using my 10th grade result card as proof for date of birth, i filled the Given Name column with Sattigarahalli Lingaraju Varun. And that’s how i got my passport, Surname : (blank) Given Name : Sattigarahalli Lingaraju Varun.

Fast forward 4 years, I was filling the form again, this time for re-issue of passport, for change in existing personal particulars. The procedure was straight forward. Fill your online form, take an appointment, submit your old passport and get the new one. Since, my present address is different from the present address mentioned in the old passport, I had to submit an address proof for the present address. So, I completed and submitted the online form. Getting an appointment at a PSK was the next challenge. I tried worthlessly all round the clock for a couple of days only to get the message “No appointment slots are available”. Googling around revealed that slots for Bangalore PSK are opened for booking at 6PM IST and are usually filled out in 2 minutes. So next day, i was ready for the challenge. I quit all applications running on my laptop, made sure the LAN cable was plugged in perfectly, cleared my table so that I have sufficient room to use my mouse, fired up the secret gateway to all Indian Government websites i.e., the Internet Explorer and logged in 5 minutes in advance. As the clock struck 6PM, I was in, I could see the time slots for the next day. I happily selected the 9AM slot for the next day, hit “Confirm Appointment” and BOOM. By the time the page refreshed i was greeted with “Sorry, that slot is booked, please start over”. That’s how i did NOT get the slot for the next day. Anyway, I was able to get an appointment the next day. I suggest restarting your laptop for better results, or may be even re-install the OS. On a serious note, it is better to target the slots for afternoon or evening, since everyone will pounce on the 9AM slot as soon as it is open for booking.

On the day of the appointment, i reached the PSK about 15 minutes early (which is 15 minutes after from the reporting time). It was all smooth. I stood in the queue for Tatkaal applicants. About 5 minutes later i was at the counter and the officer asked me for my old passport, a photocopy of the old passport and the address proof. They took those for the verification which took about 40 minutes. After that they let me in the main arena of the office. The main arena has 3 counters A, B and C. Counter A is where they take your photograph, collect the passport fees, verify all the stuff you have filled in (if you have any corrections to be made this is the place). I finished this process, and was queued for counter B. Counter B is where they verify your docs. It is usually a very swift process or so i had heard. But I had something very surprising awaiting for me. The officer at counter B found out a mistake in my date of birth in my old passport. I had never noticed that in the 4 years that i possessed my old passport! There was a DD-MM-YYYY MM-DD-YYYY goofup!. To be fair, it was a document verification mistake on their part too, but I was the one in need of a new passport quickly here and I did not argue over that. I was sent to counter C to discuss the issue. At counter C the officer pulled up my records, the scanned copy of the form i had filled in 2008 while applying for my first passport. And yes, it was my mistake. I had bungled up DD-MM-YYYY and MM-DD-YYYY. Once they established it was the applicants mistake, the officer gave me this look and I was in a terrible fix. I had no patience to start over all of this again. I politely asked him what is to be done. He asked me if i have any docs which can prove my correct date of birth. Luckily i had the original copy of my 10th grade marks card which has date of birth in words. But life can never be so simple, can it? They asked me to write an apology letter and pay 1000 rupees as a penalty. This is a standard procedure and they issue a receipt for the 1000 rupee penatly. They also hand out a penalty letter that has the legalese of the “crime” i had committed under the Passports Act 1967 (Applicant gives wrong information regarding his/her date of birth/place of birth). So, I had to start over from Counter A all over again. In a way, I was glad I did not have to start all over from Internet Explorer. This time it was indeed a breeze through the counters A, B and C. Five days later I had my new passport with the bifurcated name just the way i wanted.