I went online to get my international driver licence as my Canadian licence had expired. I thought it could be done in a few clicks.
The Transport Department website was user-friendly and advised me to download three forms. The last form had to be filled in by a doctor attesting that I am not a hazard on the highways and that he had examined me personally, my reaction time, side vision and glare recovery.
I never met any doctor but got the medical certificate by paying Rs100 (Dh5) to an agent, who printed it off the internet, and stamped it with the doctor’s rubber stamp.
The last time I had applied for an international licence was in Dubai a couple of years ago so that I could drive in India before I got a permanent licence. It took a couple of minutes, but I need not have bothered because many motorists drive without a licence in India.
The Karnataka State website said to download the forms and take them in person to the Regional Transport Office (RTO) and pay the fee at the cash counter. I should also bring three photographs and the airline ticket, it said.
Our new driver (who is a treasure trove of information on anything local, and speaks Kannada fluently), and I went to the nearby RTO and checked with a typist centre (same as the typing centres at the immigration office in Dubai) and asked what the next step was.
Shocked at the mention of e-city
The agent said he would get me the licence for Rs3,000 (Dh160; the government fee for the licence is Rs1,000) and asked me to show him my DL.
“What is a DL, I don’t have it?” I told our driver in Hindi. The driver looked at me puzzled. The typist nearly snatched my wallet from my hand, and then I understood. “Oh, DL, driving licence,” I said, sheepishly and handed it to him.
“Go to e-city RTO,” said the typist. My driving licence had been issued from that Office, so the international licence also had to be issued from there.
Our driver is an expert and guides the car effortlessly through the numerous traffic jams in Bengaluru like a pro, but even he seemed shocked when e-city was mentioned.
(I believe patients start crying when they are told they are being taken to a hospital in an ambulance to Bannerghata, near e-city. The Metro line is being constructed there).
“It will take two hours,” said the driver.
When I proudly presented the forms, duly filled in, the lady at the counter said they need to be filled online. “Go to this website,” she said. In the waiting area I found a poster that said, “Eradicate Corruption — Build A New India”.
Our driver said, “Let’s get the form filled outside.”
The woman was sitting near the entrance of the RTO in a Tata SUV and had a laptop open on the dashboard. Behind her (inside the vehicle) was a man sitting on a stool, busy with a Xerox machine on a tiny stool. The door of the SUV had a beach umbrella stand screwed on to it, shading the vehicle and the woman from the searing heat.
Underneath the umbrella was a beautiful butterfly fluttering around. “Nice office,” I said, and the woman smiled, said, “Thank you,” and gave me her business card.
I told her business partner nearby, who was wearing huge gold rings on his pinkies, “I need the licence urgently.”
“No problem,” he said. “It will be ready on Monday. That will be Rs4,000 (about Dh212).
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.