Arun Kumar Sahu*
“How long will it take?” I asked.
“That depends, Sir.” Was the answer.
“Well, it’ll actually depend on whether you’ve got high blood pressure or a cardiac problem or even eyesight issues,” officers surrounding me were obstinately non-categorical, just to be on the safe side. Just in case…..
“Sometimes, they recommend a fresh eye check-up before granting a driver’s license.” One braved to suggest, looking at my bespectacled face.
“My eyes aren’t that bad. I can drive without my glasses on,” I said.
I love driving. Driving liberates me from the routine, the mundane; makes me feel the speed, the wide expanse, the terrain, the openness of the blue sky and the floating white clouds.
20 May 2016. Ottawa City Office: a sprawling building that houses offices for citizen utility services and the Mayor His Worship Jim Watson. I approached a counter with a token in my hand.
“Good morning. Beautiful day today, isn’t it? May I have your identity card, please?” a lady behind the counter greeted me with a smile.
“Very good morning. A bright and sunny day indeed,” I replied, producing my diplomatic card and my Indian driving license renewed in New Delhi from my coat-pocket.
“You’ll need a diplomatic clearance from the Canadian foreign office too, Sir,” the lady added.
“Any health issues or medication you are currently taking, Sir?” she asked.
“Do you use glasses while driving, Sir?” Probably a routine question.
“Not really,” I answered, pointing at the bifocals on my nose.
“Could you please come to the other side of the counter so that I can check your vision?”
I obeyed her, removed my glasses, rested my chin on the machine and stared into the darkness. For the next one minute, bright yellow dots appeared and vanished, some far-off and some near. I had to tell her whether they appeared on the left or right of my line of vision. Then came those sets of letters, big to small and small to smaller. I read them mechanically except the last one. The letters were minuscule! The lady asked me to try again. I focused; but ended up guessing anyway.
“We’re done.” She said while returning to her designated seat.
I watched as she punched a few characters into her computer. Then, she took a print-out, asked me to sign it and gave me back along with my diplomatic identity card and Indian driving license. “Here is your temporary driving license, Sir. The permanent one will be delivered at your residential address in two weeks. Have a great day. Thank you.”
Perplexed, I asked, “Am I done?”. And sure enough, with a dazzling white grin on her face, she answered, “Yes, Sir.”
The whole process, from getting a token to receiving my Canadian driver’s license took only about ten minutes.
“That’s pretty smart.” My young colleague from the High Commission pointed out, visibly relieved. “If only our smart cities could be that smart,” was my spontaneous remark.
*The writer is the Deputy High Commissioner of India to Canada
The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of the government of India or www.odishasuntimes.com