My Adventures at the Zonal Transport Office

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.

Whenever I hear someone mention a government office of any sort, I find myself thinking of middle aged women who look strangely like that distant aunt of yours who likes to give you unsolicited advice because “… youngsters like you need the guidance of your elders.” I associate government ventures with forgotten, derelict buildings and old Wipro computers running Windows 98. If I’m feeling particularly depressed, I conjure up terrifying visions of office chairs from the last century which have been patched up so many times they’ve started looking like abstract art. Equally frightening are the visions of their owners, who have been sitting in those demented pieces of office furniture for so long that the furniture has morphed to acquire the shape of their bums, as a result of which nobody else can ever be expected to use the same chairs unless they have the same bumprints.

When I walked into the zonal transport department this morning to apply for my learner’s license, this is exactly what I expected. I was relieved to find out how wrong I was.

The first thing that hits you when you walk into the office is the fact that there are no middle aged women who look like your distant aunt. After you’ve had a mental victory dance, you realize that the place isn’t as dreary as you would expect a government office to be. It has a strange sort of cheerfulness. Not the “Yay! I’m so happy!” kind of cheerfulness, but the kind of cheerfulness you find in workplaces where every employee is satisfied and prides himself on a job well done. The computers are all HCL workstations (with LCD screens!) running Windows XP (not really something you can be proud of, but at least it’s better than Windows 98 ). You can see ergonomic chairs behind every desk. A large LCD television adorns one of the walls. The lighting is top notch, and the tiled floors make the ambience even brighter.

(The office also seems to have a competent sysadmin. I first realized he was competent when I saw him getting frustrated at the guy at Counter 3, who couldn’t get something very simple to work. He swore in the glorious sysadmin tradition, “What did you motherfuckers eat this morning?”, drawing curious glances from the people near Counter 3, and a glance of deep understanding and appreciation from me.)

The only thing that reminds you it’s still a government office you’re dealing with is the long queue at Counter A, where you have to submit the filled in license form along with an ID and a proof of address. Since I was early, I didn’t have to stand in queue for too long, but others were not that lucky. At Counter B, a young girl took my photograph, signature and fingerprints, a procedure that took 30 seconds. I was told to go to Counter 7 for a few tests.

The person sitting at Counter 7 first gave me a color blindness test, which was basically an Ishihara Color Test. After that, I was given a simple questionnaire. It was nice to see that the transportation department has a sense of humor. Here are a few questions that struck me as hilarious:

Q: Why should one give more room to cyclists while driving?

  1. Two wheels are unstable
  2. They might turn anywhere, anytime
  3. They have a right to more space on the roads
  4. None of these

(I couldn’t figure this one out.)

Q: While driving at night:

  1. Drive slow and look out for cyclists and pedestrians
  2. You reach your destination faster
  3. Cyclists and pedestrians don’t come out at night
  4. None of these

Q: While driving at a high speed:

  1. You reach your destination faster
  2. One must adhere to the speed limit
  3. You have more fun
  4. None of these

Q: Two wheelers can carry:

  1. Only one person
  2. Two people—one in the front and one in the back
  3. As many people as you can fit on it
  4. None of these

Q: There are different speed limits on the road because:

  1. Everyone is in a hurry
  2. Buses take up too much space
  3. Most people don’t drive in their own lanes
  4. There are many different kinds of vehicles on the roads

(Another one I couldn’t figure out, so I marked option 4 because it was the most rational.)

The rest of the questions dealt with road signs, driving skills and road laws. There were total 30 questions.

The test took less than ten minutes, and the entire process took less than an hour (including the time it took for the person at Counter A to fix a broken printer). This is the first time I’ve gone to a government office and haven’t spent the day there. It seems like the Indian government has realized that lengthy procedures actually cost them money. I just hope other government offices take a cue from the transportation office.

In other news, I finally get my very own car. It’s ten years old, doesn’t have an air conditioner and has a radio that works only when you’re not in the mood for music. But the features don’t matter. What matters is that I finally have a car. Take that, environment friendly public transport!


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