By Sheila Kumar (Satire)The whole process was now streamlined, they said. It was easy as cream pie, they said. Well, Iâ€™d like to meet them, I have some pithy things to say to them. No, Iâ€™m not referring to Aamir Khanâ€™s film-with-enigmatic title in the headline. Let that enigma stand for a while longer. Iâ€™m talking about a venerable Passport Kendra in Bengaluru, where Iâ€™d gone for the mere trifle of a passport reissue. The third reissue, mind you. Four hours later, I emerged a shattered and shaken woman.It all started off so well, too. Be there at 2.40 pm, the slip I was given warned sternly. At 2.48, my papers were scrutinised, okayed and I was waved through to Section A. Section A was like the waiting area of a respectable clinic and had a Town Crier, a callow youth who called out our token numbers in a shrill voice. Somewhat superfluous, I thought initially, because a large screen flashed the numbers quite in the fashion of Derby results. Soon enough, I realised the Crier had his uses; every few minutes, there was a mass lunge for the door, whereupon he quickly assumed the role of bouncer and pushed people back. Once he cried out a number four times, to no visible reaction. He then walked up to a young woman and asked her, are you 221? Yes, she said in a tone of great surprise. The Crier sighed deeply, then gestured for her to go in. I admired his fortitude.It was an interminable wait. I breathed in the BO that is the regulation bouquet of any Indian crowd, I watched a swaddled baby two rows ahead of me grow up a little, break out his first milk tooth and learn his first word (clue: it begins with p). I watched a man who was clearly pondering if he should try the `Jante ho main kaun hoon` line. (He decided against it, in the end). I watched a clan reunion take place, I watched two techies muse blankly over whatever it was that techies mused when away from their computers. I watched a girl watch the latest season of a Korean soap on her iPad. I watched a pair of bratty twins kick up a ruckus and pondered whether travel or two tight slaps were what they needed.Then the Crier called for numbers from 200 to 201. I was 239 but behaved like a true Indian lemming and rushed up to him. No maydum, he said firmly. I noticed that all those who vanished into the maw of Section B never returned. Fifty minutes later, a thin voice called out my name. But the crier said no go, I had to wait for the number to flash. I was developing breathing trouble. A TV came on and showed ads for a room freshener, an Audi sedan and a water purifier in that order. People watched in listless fascination and of course, the Crier had to cry out the numbers repeatedly. My number was flashed/called. Once inside Section B, I hastened to B3 where a Miss Sindhu shuffled through my papers, scanned my fingertips and then, clicked my passport photograph. I took a look at it and recoiled: the horror, oh the horror. Before I could plead for a second chance, she was asking me to sign inside the bracket and tut-tutting because, traumatised by the Gila monster Iâ€™d seen in the photo, I signed my signature outside the bracket. As I got up, Miss Sindhu said I was to head to Section C for further verification. That was a wait of another forty minutes. I watched a PYT apply a fresh coat of lipstick and wanted to tell her with jaded cynicism that no matter what she did, the end result would be the same: sheâ€™d look like nothing on earth, leave along herself. I was also starting to form a decided opinion on the interiors of the PK, eggshell walls and gray furniture. There was a Crier in there too, and as time ticked inexorably on and we kept catching each otherâ€™s eye, a meaningful relationship looked set to develop.By the time the Section C man met me, I had evolved to a higher plane, nearly giving the wrong name, staring confusedly when asked if there was any change of address. I was beginning to consider PK a home away from home, you see. Still in that daze, I stumbled back to the doorway, only to realise PK was like Hotel Californiaâ€¦you can check out but you can never leave. (Mainly because the exit was at the other end.)Once I got out, I inhaled the smell of rain-tipped air mixed with garbage and exhaust fumes, that special smell of Bangaluru. I was free. And I defiantly thought, whatever happens in the future, I would always have Number 239.