Enigma Of Identity

If somebody at home (read husband) applies for a ATM/ Credit card, the best thing to do would be to abscond from home, and allow husband dear handle the courier man who comes to deliver the card. If you are around, you will be made to experience the worst kind of identity crisis.

I experienced this when my husband was issued a Debit card – I do not understand how a Debit card is different from a Credit card and for that matter until that day I did not know that something called a Debit card existed. 

I possess a Credit card; I use the card wherever they are accepted. Unfortunately, I cannot make purchases that are important to me personally using a Credit card. The Horticulture of Madras and the nurseries where I buy plants do not accept Credit cards and Nalini who owns the Bookshop Giggles from where I buy my books turns pale when I flash my Credit card. The people I interact with are many decades behind time. So I use Credit card to buy groceries, to me Credit cards are associated with mundane aspects of life.

When the courier man rang the bell one quiet Saturday afternoon to deliver the card, little did I realize that a card that was a humdrum could send me on a soul-searching trip. He asked for my identification proof. He asked me how I was related to the person addressed on the package that he had brought to deliver. “Wife,” I said. Thankfully, he believed that. He looked at my father-in-law and gave me an enquiring look, “His father,” I said pointing to the cover. “I want a proof of your identity,” he said, “Any of these will do – Pan card, Passport, Driver’s license, Ration card, Voter’s id.” It was then I realized that I did not possess most of these – no Ration card, no Voter’s id, no Passport and I knew that I would have to turn the house over to locate my Pan card or my defunct Driver’s license and I was in no mood to look for these.  I was annoyed that I was pulled away from Naipaul, and I could not take this interruption in a casual way as I would if a delivery boy came to disturb me to deliver a cooking gas cylinder. Here was a young man calling me up to question my identity, that too on a beatific Saturday afternoon that held portents of an evening shower. I looked at the courier man combatively, I picked an argument with him, “If I were a home maker I will not have a Pan card, and not everyone need have a Passport. I do not any way have a Ration card or Voter’s id. So what can be done now? Having none of these does not make me any less who I am.”

The man looked at me blankly, and said, “Madam, you have none of these? Then you cannot collect the courier. I will come when your husband is at home.” I was angry that he completely missed my point. I was not worried about the package at all. Here was a matter of larger significance. The man, innocent of his own motives, was insinuating that I did not have an identity according to parameters laid by banks / organizations that call forth certain documents to endorse my identity.

My father-in-law who got my point wanted to bring the situation under control, he offered to produce his own identification documents. The man was relieved; he was not prepared to make another trip to such an unpleasant customer. My father-in-law thankfully has a Passport; he went in to fetch it. He only then remembered that he had given it to my brother-in-law for renewal. “Never mind,” he told me, “I will show the National Award I received for meritorious service as a teacher; this has my photo as well. Photo identification, you know,” he told his worldly unwise daughter-in-law.

The courier man looked at the card and was puzzled, “Is this your Passport, Sir?” he asked. “No, some thing more valuable than a Passport,” he said with pride, “This is the award I got from the President of India for my meritorious service as a teacher.” “But this is not a Ration card or Passport, Sir,” he persisted; here was a man who valued a mundane Ration card more than National Award. We told this to him. The man could not make up his mind who was more difficult – the daughter-in- law or the father-in-law.

He steeled himself for further onslaughts and said to himself, here is a duo putting my patience to test; I should not lose my cool and I should no further take things lying down. He asked slowly and calmly, looking intently at my father-in-law, “You do not have a Voter’s id, Sir?” Even as he asked this, I visualized his emphasis – bold and italicized. I read the subtext immediately, he meant that my father-in-law appeared like a responsible citizen who cast his vote and partook in the government machinery to make democracy work. I glared at the young man who was many years younger than I was.

To diffuse the situation my father-in-law packed him away and asked him to come on Monday or after 8 p.m the same day when my husband would be present. I did not care to find out how the story ended, as I told earlier the package did not interest me at all. There was the larger issue if identity.