The Prime Minister was addressing the nation on the TV when Carlos walked into the Regional Transport Office. “By the year 2024, all duplicate citizens in the country will be deported,” the PM said with his characteristic aplomb and histrionics.
“I lost my driving license,” Carlos said to the man at the enquiry counter. “What should I do?”
“You need to apply for a duplicate license,” the man helped. “Do you have a copy of your license?”
“Not a hard copy,” Carlos said. “I have this.” He showed the digital license he had downloaded in Digilocker on his mobile phone.
“You should meet the MVI [Motor Vehicles Inspector] there.” The man pointed to a cubicle where an elderly man was sitting with a pile of papers in front.
Carlos showed his digital license and sought assistance.
“This is not a valid license,” the man said taking Carlos’s mobile phone and peering at the screen. “Your license was issued in 2017 when the number system was different. How did you get this license?”
“From Digilocker. Automatic download.”
The man shook his head as if he was suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect.
“You don’t have a hard copy of your license?” The man asked condescending to look at Carlos.
“I’m sorry, no.”
The man pulled the keyboard of his desktop and banged on some keys. Then he picked up a piece of wastepaper from the dustbin and wrote a number. “This is your license number. But your address falls under another RTO. So you have to apply for the DL particulars first.”
“Pardon,” said Carlos. He had no idea what deeyel was.
The man wrote ‘DL particulars’ on the scrap paper and thrust it towards Carlos with a wave of hand that indicated, ‘Now get lost from here.’ He returned to the pile of papers.
Carlos walked to the inquiry once again and asked how to apply for deeyel particulars.
“Go to Akshaya,” the man at the inquiry said.
Carlos had noticed the Akshaya centre right opposite the RTO because of the large crowd in it. He soon merged into the crowd. It took a couple of hours before the application for deeyel particulars materialised in the form of some printed sheets which he carried with much fervour to the RTO. He had paid Rs 110 for that precious document.
“The time is over for accepting application for deeyel particulars,” said the lady to whom the inquiry man had directed Carlos.
“Should I come tomorrow?” Carlos asked pathetically. The lady concealed her Dunning-Kruger effect and mumbled, “There’s a fast track counter there which will open after 2 o’clock. You can try there.”
No one appeared at the fast track counter until 3 pm. The lady who appeared behind the grill seemed to be a personification of the Dunning-Kruger effect. “Come at 4.30,” she said curtly.
Carlos placed himself on a chair outside the office and watched men and women walking up and down in the office with papers in hands. Papers and papers in the hands of Dunning-Kruger effects. In a world that had become digital.
Carlos began to feel that he was an impostor. He had not heard of impostor syndrome, however.
The air in the office as well as the enclosed courtyard where Carlos was sitting smelled curiously musty and mushy. It had the effect of some drug on Carlos. He felt intoxicated. He enjoyed sitting there. He thought he enjoyed sitting there. He began to do pranayama the way that Baba Ramdev taught to do on the TV.
It was almost 5 pm when Carlos was woken up by a man who asked, “Are you Carlos K?”
Carlos K rushed to the fast track counter feeling immensely guilty for his drugged delay.
“I’m sorry,” he apologised to the lady at the fast track counter.
“Just a minute,” mumbled the lady.
Continued to wait.
Dunning-Krugers were shutting down their desktops, shutting files, shutting shelves, shutting and shutting.
“Here,” the lady handed him a single sheet of paper whose first line was a caption, ‘Driving License Particulars’. “You have to take this to your RTO.” The lady shut the counter after that.
“My RTO!” Carlos was amused.
He felt giddy as he walked out of the RTO into the fresh air outside.
Carlos was at his RTO the next morning.
“You need to fill up the application for a duplicate license,” he was advised by the new Dunning-Kruger.
Another Akshaya. Another crowd. Another wait. Another bunch of papers that cost him Rs600.
“Meet the MVI.” A new order.
“How did you lose your license?” MVI asked.
Carlos was an impostor. He didn’t know how he had lost his driving license.
“Did you check all the possible places?”
“Yes.” He had checked even the impossible places.
“All right. You’ll have to apply now for the change of address at that last counter.”
“Change of address? But my address has not changed.”
MVI peered over his spectacles. “The address of your RTO has changed, hasn’t it? You have to pay the fees for that.”
Another Dunning-Kruger now. At the last counter. “Can’t you see I’m dealing with another case. Wait.”
Carlos had not seen the other ‘case’. But wait he did.
“You haven’t attached the envelope for sending your license.” Dunning-Kruger said when her other ‘case’ had been dealt with and she had snatched Carlos’s bunch of papers.
Carlos went to Akshaya which he thought was the ultimate remedy for all lacunae.
“Rs50,” Akshaya said handing him an envelope.
Carlos rushed back to his RTO which also had the same musty, mushy smell as the other RTO that was not his.
“You haven’t written your phone number on the envelope,” Dunning-Kruger said looking at the address that Carlos had written as instructed by Akshaya.
“Can I borrow that pen?” Carlos asked picking up Dunning-Kruger’s pen from her desk.
“I need it.” She protested.
“I’ll return it. Just a moment, please.” Carlos-the-impostor pleaded.
“Should I pin the envelope along with the papers?” Carlos asked as he placed the lady’s pen near her stapler.
“I’ll do it,” she said grabbing the stapler before Carlos could lay his hands on it.
“Pay Rs 260.”
Paperwork in a digital world is quite expensive, thought Carlos as he pulled out his wallet.
“You will get your duplicate license by post,” Dunning-Kruger said handing him the receipt for the money he paid. “The word duplicate will be printed on it. It will be there now till the end of your life.”
“Thank god I’m old,” Carlos mumbled.
“What?” Dunning-Kruger was not amused. “It is up to God to decide your lifespan.”
Carlos saw himself smile. “Dunning-Kruger is more powerful than god,” he said.
The woman stared at him. Carlos didn’t see the stare since he had turned to walk out into the fresh air outside where he knew he would feel giddy for a while.