Tuesday, June 9, 2009


As I was driving along Lusaka's Cairo road, I saw an Indian gentleman walking along the side-walk, with a brief-case in his hand. He had the appearance of someone from the outstations. I thought of offering him a lift to his immediate destination and pulled up near him. He looked up, saw a fellow-Indian behind the wheel and stood patiently for me to invite him into my Nissan. As it was one of the mid-morning lull periods, there were no "honkings" from behind while other cars swished past.

Soon I came to know that my passenger's name was Meendi Rattha (pronounced 'maendi rath-tha') and he was working as a teacher of English in the Luapula province of Zambia. He was from the uttar pradesh in north India. His immediate destination was the office of the Indian High Commission. As I also wanted to collect a few application forms from there, I assured Mr. Rattha that I could drop him there and he thanked me profusely.

After parking my car we went up the steps to the "Reception". There was a lady in attendance. She smiled at us and asked what she could do for us. To my great surprise Mr. Rattha burst out into a small speech which ran out something like this: "After thirteen years of married life my wife decided to go to India on account of her brother's son's marriage which is supposed to take place by the end of next month and as a result...." By that time, the lady behind the counter managed to stop the monologue and asked him what he wanted exactly. Without being interrupted, Mr. Rattha told her in so many words that the reason for his visit was to apply for a separate passport for his wife as they were on a joint- passport at present. The lady directed us to one of the inner rooms. It was a large room with three people sitting behind their individual desks. I saw the desk marked "Application Forms" and went there to collect the forms that I needed. In the meanwhile Mr. Rattha approached the central desk where a distinguished looking gentleman was seated. As he looked at Mr.Rattha enquiringly, he exploded into his monologue "After thirteen years of married life...." and went on about halfway through the story before the gentleman managed to stop him. He then told him very patiently that his wife would have to apply for a new passport and her name would have to be deleted from the joint-passport. He was asked to go to the next room and meet the Consular Agent who would assist him with the procedure and tell him what all documents would be required.

As I had already collected my forms, I thought I would now leave the office and go home. Mr.Rattha was in good hands and the teachers' hostel where he stayed was within walking distance. I made my departure as he was just entering the Consular Agent's room. While I went down the steps I could hear once again Mr. Ratha's voice echoing from somewhere inside the building "After thirteen years of married life, my wife..........."