“The Singapore Airlines welcomes you to the Changi International airport. The temperature outside is 32 degree celsius. We wish you a pleasant stay and hope to serve you soon again,” the voice of the air hostess filled the aeroplane. Zoya looked at her grandparents, seated next to her. The look of excitement on their faces, filled her with love and joy. She smiled at them and they just beamed back. So her granny’s dream of visiting a foreign land, had just come true. She said a small prayer of thanks, for making almost the impossible happen.
Zoya had heard many times from Granny that how much she wanted to make a foreign trip. Though her grandparents had traveled extensively through the country, a foreign trip was always an un-doable thing for her grandpa. He never thought that he could manage one by himself. Zoya loved her grandparents a lot and she often wished to fulfill her Granny’s dream. After her college, she joined work and announced to her grandparents that she would soon take them on a foreign trip. They laughed it off but when they realised that Zoya was serious, Grandpa dropped a bombshell. Neither of them had a passport!
In today’s times, who didn’t have a passport, thought Zoya. Grandpa simply said that as there was no need of a passport, one was never made. Zoya said very encouragingly that having a passport made was no difficult and she would initiate the process. She made a list of the documents required and gave the list to Grandpa. Grandpa went through the list and looked silently at Zoya.
“What happened Grandpa? I want the documents right away. I don’t want to waste any time. I need to fill the form and submit it before I leave,” said Zoya.
“I don’t have a birth certificate Zoya,” muttered Grandpa.
“What? You don’t have a birth certificate? How impossible that can be?” Zoya was appalled.
“We didn’t have a birth certificate in our times,”explained Grandpa.
“But you are a doctor! You would have a school leaving certificate, won’t you?”cried Zoya.
“Yes, I did but I have no clue where it is,” argued eighty year old, Grandpa.
Next day Grandpa’s school leaving certificate was searched everywhere possible in the house. Old files were opened after ages, with the hope of finding the certificate but alas! The certificate remained elusive. Without the certificate, making of the passport was absolutely impossible. Zoya was completely at a loss now. Would her wish to fulfill Granny’s dream, remain just a dream? She was a very determined girl. She could not accept defeat easily. She became restless and was up the whole night. She decided to go to the passport office the next day.
Next morning, she went to the passport office and met the passport officer. She narrated her predicament to him. He too confirmed that a birth date proof was mandatory. When Zoya insisted on a solution, he casually said that the school from which he had passed out could be checked if they could issue a date of birth certificate from their records. Zoya couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Checking Grandpa’s school for his school leaving certificate?That would be some sixty six years back records! Would they still be there? And who would help find them? She had no option but to leave, so thanking the officer she left.
Zoya called Grandpa and asked him the name of his school. Grandpa started laughing when he heard the whole thing. He asked her to stop being foolish and that she should come back home. But Zoya was adamant. Grandpa had to tell her the name of his school. Zoya did not have too much difficulty in reaching there. So this was where Grandpa studied as a boy! She could see boys sitting in their classrooms. One of them was her Grandpa, some sixty six years ago? She brought herself back to the present and with a heart beating fast, she stepped into the lobby and reached the Principle’s office. Oh no! The Principal was on leave that day but with the will to return the next day, a bit disappointed Zoya went back home.
Everybody at home strongly dissuaded Zoya from going ahead with her plans of getting the passports made but Zoya was determined. Next morning she went to the school again and after a short wait, met the Principal. The Principal too could not believe what he heard Zoya speak. She wanted to look for her Grandpa’s name in the school file of sixty six years ago! What condition would the pages of the file be! He simply was exasperated but he was touched by her intent. She wanted to have her Grandparent’s, aged 80 and 70 respectively, passports made so that she could take them on a foreign trip. He called a clerk and asked him to look for the file. Hearing the year of the file that he had to look for, the clerk was dumbfounded. There was another limitation too; the board exams were starting in three days time so the Principal gave Zoya just one day in which the clerk would be able to help find the file.
Zoya accompanied the clerk to a room in the basement. She offered to help in looking for the file. The room was dark and musty. Any file that was touched, had mounds of dust on it. The pages had turned yellow and were brittle. It was almost six hours and they were unable to trace the file. The clerk was tired and the dust was making him cough and sneeze and breathless. He gave up saying that he was unable to trace the sequence of the files that were so old. He admitted though that the file had to be there somewhere and there had to be a particular pattern of filing it that unfortunately, he was unable to decipher. Excusing himself, he left to have his lunch, indicating somehow that he had given up hope.
Zoya could not give up. She pleaded to him to try again after lunch. Seeing him go away without a response, Zoya told him that she would wait for him till the end of the day. Zoya sat there helpless and sad. It was more than an hour that the clerk had gone. Had he really given up? Would he not return to give it a try once more? So many thoughts were churning her mind when suddenly she saw the clerk coming. Excitement ran through her body as she stood up and went inside with the clerk to try her luck again. As they were looking through shelves, another clerk came there to see what was happening. On hearing about the search, he suddenly seemed to remember something and went to the other side of the room . With a ladder he climbed up and in less than five minutes handed down a fat file, with the year 1941 written on it. With a pounding heart and trembling fingers, Zoya took the file and turned the pages gently and expectantly till she reached the page where she found her her Grandfather’s name written as a student of class ten. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. The clerk took the file and got a photocopy of the page and gave it to the Principal. Based on that, a certificate of the date of birth was issued by the school and the Principal handed it to Zoya. He had become very emotional and said,
“Any one having a child like you, is blessed. I wish you all the very best in life.”
With gratitude, Zoya took the envelope and thanking him, ran out of the room. She now, could not wait to go home. The impossible was done and she filled the forms and submitted them. In due coarse, the passports arrived. And here she was sitting in the aircraft with her grandparents, ready to deplane at Singapore where they had come for a week long holiday.