Try another day- A true incident
22nd November 2008
Now read ahead……….
It’s 3.00 in the morning and still a beautiful night. Stars glitter like scattered jewels. The night air is cool and pleasant .We are driving to one of the most popular destinations of Abu Dhabi- at least it has become so since the last one month. The roads are deserted except for an occasional car or two. Our kids are fast asleep in the back. I look at my husband PK and quietly bask in the knowledge that we haven’t shared such a quiet, romantic moment since our honeymoon seven years back.
We arrive at the spot. The parking lot is already dotted with about 25 cars.
There is a small crowd in front of a side gate. PK drives around to the main gate and lo! there are only four people squatting near it! Parking the car, he strides over to them. A second later, all the squatters jump up and follow him as he bounds towards the side gate. I am astounded at his(seemingly latent) leadership qualities. I wait patiently sending up a small prayer every now and then. 3.25 am cannot be called late by any standards I thought but turns out I am mistaken. PK is back and he utters the dreaded words-“The List, You are No. 5 and I am No. 47” . My heart sinks. Before you go off in some other direction, let me tell you – this is the modern horror unraveling in the desert province of Abu Dhabi and many other parts of the U.A.E. We have all become zombies mainly due to obsessive moonlighting vigils in front of certain buildings. Sleep -deprived zombies carrying passports and a bit of bar-coded paper. All thanks to Eida. Aaha moment here! The name (misleadingly) conjures up images of a beautiful maiden .
Today’s rules include separate queues for ladies and gents. Last night, at the Exhibition Centre Eida office, there was only 1 queue. They seem to sympathize with the monotony people face hence a new set of rules each day. The four people who were rescued by hubby dear from hours of loneliness in front of the main gate, are all ahead of him in the List, thanks to his magnanimous nature. The first one on the List is a pleasant, handsome, unshaven cheerful young man who informs everyone that he has been on the job since 11 pm yesterday night. I suspect he never went home and was actually the last person from the day before.
The kids are asleep and I start to worry about finding a toilet once they are awake. PK sets off on a brisk walk around the block that I think has nothing to do with his paunch -reduction schemes and is related to another urgent matter. He appears a few minutes later, a very relieved man (pun intended) and informs me that there is no toilet in the vicinity and a sheepish grin confirms my worst fears. Men!
Time now is 4.45 am.
I put on the car radio and olden hits of Mukesh and Rafi fill the car. Night is leaving and it is getting hotter. Images of being gassed while asleep float into my mind and I roll down a window . Bad move! Most of the crowd, an Asian male majority numbering a hundred ,turn to look at this musical interruption by a Raj Kapoor romantic number-“Pyar hua, Ikraar hua , Pyar se phir kyun darta hai dil..” . Turning down the volume, I continue with my thoughts on Eida. Maybe we should apply for a gun. A vision comes alive -of me stepping over a hundred bodies , waving a bar-coded paper and entering the gates triumphantly ! I think of sharing what seems to be the lone solution to this problem with PK but he seems intent on memorizing the names before him on the List and swapping horror stories with people,some on their 10th visit.
Time 5.00 am.
A sense of comradeship seems to have formed since all the men waiting since 3 am are now ready to sleep in one another’s arms. Grown men in ties and suits , comfortably and uninhibitedly snuggling together on the dusty footpath. Sleep is a great unifier, especially since women have hogged the car seats.
Time 6.00 am
Kids are awake and chomping their buttered bread and downing chocolate milk. Being a conscientious mother, I had packed these last night. The fact that they have not brushed their teeth, seems to have lent an agreeable, new flavor to breakfast, I think watching my normally fussy babies wolfing down the meager stock. We watch as the ordinary folk of Abu Dhabi descend from all directions, on cars, on foot determined to make a dash for it when the gates open. Oh! Did I mention that the List stood at 200 + for men and 75+ for women? A pro-active and undoubtedly strong woman undertook crowd management and did a marvelous job of it. She organized the 275+ crowd into 2 queues-1 for ladies and 1 for gents. A few refused to fall into either lines raising suspicions of the other kind but they turned out to be VIPs with an extra piece of paper, which proclaimed them to be privileged “Appointment holders”.
To pass the time till 8 am, we made up many versions of today’s rules
1. Only 15 people would be allowed in(poor PK, he is No. 47)
2. Ladies first,.(He fails there too)
3. Might is right(He could score there, that is right up his alley)
4. Families preferred( Hooray!)
Time 7.55 am.
Crowd at full strength. List being waved by leaders of each queue. Crowd on the verge of cheering for the officer in traditional Kandoora as he makes an appearance followed by 2 security personnel. Gates open slowly.
The crowd surges forward. The officer utters utterly disappointing words–“appointment holders, enter”.
which seems to go down very badly with the crowd. People waving sweaty bits of paper struggle to get ahead, ignoring admonishments from the lady with the strong voice. The others, it seems, are intent on making things more challenging for the appointment holders so as not to decrease their fun. Suddenly there is a massive push from behind and I am inside the gate with my son in my arms and my daughter hanging on to my dress for dear life! The ‘Hand of God’ – I presume and run in the direction of an open door straight ahead. Hubby dear will have to find his own way, since the male crowd has been successfully thwarted from entering by the security men. The gates are closed once more. I cannot believe my good luck!
Happy and sweaty , we set about entering numerous doors and lifts following the people in front. Twice they seemed to have lost the way and then found it again. We enter the women’s section , self-congratulatory smiles on our faces. A smiling lady at the help desk starts calling out some numbers. I am confused then realize she means the appointment holders. There are only 11 of those species so I wait patiently.
After she finishes, I ask her showing my bar-coded paper as to where I should go. She asks for my appointment number. I have none. I am a walk in and waiting since 3 am. She suggests that I go home .My jaw drops. But I am number 5 in the List ,I argue. What list? -She says. We show her the list. She glances at it and drops the Bombshell!
1.Today is Saturday.(we agree)
2. No walk-ins today.(@&$*##@&%#@)
3. No more appointments today .
She has helpful suggestions too as she is manning the Help Desk.
a). Try the automatic appointment booking machine.( it is out of order)
b). Try the Net.(The website is jammed).
c). Go Home
d). Come back tomorrow(or today mid-night if you like).
In clear and marvelous English, she informs us:-
All appointments – Enter
All walk-ins/Push ins-Exit .
What happens next is
-We use the bathrooms(rather dirty ones)
-I call PK from the cleaner’s mobile since mine has died( PK doesn’t gloat or smirk which is why we are still married)
-he advices me to retreat peacefully and if possible gracefully.
-we fight hundreds of glaring people sitting outside on the steps, trying to thwart our entry when we are actually trying to exit and act as if we are here to visit my grandmother.
-we are re united with head of the family who drops us home and drives to work -with his tie resembling a hangman’s loop and ketchup on his sleeve .
The kids seem to think it a shame that we have to go home so soon. They seem to like the ambience of the Eida office and have spotted a vending machine with chips and juice there. We promise to return there soon.
We glimpse the pleasant youth from 11.00 pm the day before, on the steps as we drive away. He no longer seems handsome . He looks positively twisted, murderous and sinister. I pray for Eida.
[ Emirates identity authority or EIDA issued a deadline for all local and expatriate residents of United Arab Emirates(UAE) to get their National IDENTITY cards made, with hints of heavy fines and other sinister punishments in case of failure to do so. The only way to get these ID cards made, seemed to be the one described above. There was a lack of information and lack of an authoritative and authentic source about the actual procedure which gave rise to several misleading rumors. Eida has since rectified several shortcomings and extended the deadline .]