Naicken Street a Gateway to Getaway
application for passport is incomplete," said the clerk at the
come, I have submitted all the required documents," Juggernaut
was sweating and anxious.
don't see 'No Objection Certificate' from your employer."
submit through the travel agent."
don't see, we could not review your application further until you
submit 'No Objection Certificate. '"Next," shouted the
Juggernaut was literally begging the man to reconsider his
application as he was ejected from the office.
Standing outside the office were hundreds of people milling
around in hot sun; scores in a line to enter the office, lots of
others just standing or walking around, all in pursuit to get
passport. In early seventies, the government made it hard for
regular folks to get a passport, a socialist philosophy of
luck, nobody to get help from, in a City few hundred miles from
home, with no knowledge of local language where the locals insist
on talking in their language, Juggernaut found himself in a
dilemma; getting another original certificate in-time from
bureaucracy was next to impossible and abandon any efforts to get
passport means losing a great opportunity to take up a
fellowship. Juggernaut decided that he shall get the passport by
hook or crook. He started looking for a crook to help him out in
know somebody to help me to get passport?" asked Juggernaut
addressing a man in a local garb appeared not saintly to say the
least but then there was no game plan to go further.
I need passport." Juggernaut moved closer to the man.
come with me," said the man walking fast making his way pushing
people towards the road and climbed into an auto-rickshaw
(motorized rickshaw) signaling Juggernaut to jump in with him and
spoke with the rickshaw driver in his language.
rickshaw took off like a rocket, moving at high speed maneuvering
the traffic as if it was racing against other vehicles.
Juggernaut, confused and disoriented looked sideways to see
whether he can recognize landmarks on the route to return to his
motel safe. The rugged looking stranger was quiet all along; the
rickshaw suddenly entered the "Parry's Corner,' a landmark in the
City comparable to "Time Square" in New York, Juggernaut
identified quickly and felt calm for a moment. Then, the rickshaw
made a sharp turn into 'Angappa Naicken Street' a narrow and
winding road appeared more like a warehouse district. Many small
trucks and other transportation vehicles were double parked
leaving no space at all; nevertheless, the rickshaw driver found
room to drive through and suddenly stopped in front of a small
white washed building as if he knows exactly where to stop. The
stranger got out and paid the rickshaw driver and signaled
Juggernaut to follow him into the small unassuming building with
a sign board that read "Kutty Travels."
Dumfounded Juggernaut followed the stranger into the building
that opened into a small court yard enclosed on all four sides
with three floors of rooms like a motel. Some people were
squatting on the floor along the edge of the court yard and other
standing on different floors as if everybody was waiting to see
something to happen soon in the center of the court yard.
go inside that room," said the man with his hand stretched to
show the direction of the room and disappeared into the
Juggernaut looked around suspiciously and slowly entered the
room. A dark, heavy set man with greasy hair was sitting on a
posh upholstered chair that looks more like a king's throne.
Juggernaut introduced himself and asked if he could get a
passport without 'No Objection Certificate'. "You talk to my son,
he will be here anytime, you can wait outside," said the man
without paying any attention at all, he hardly looked at
Juggernaut came out of the room slowly into the court yard still
a busy place with people hanging around. From their garb, it was
evident that most of them were from an area in Deep South known
for migrant workers.
Juggernaut looked around to see a receptionist or some sort
sitting behind a small desk with few phones. Juggernaut
approached her to find out when the son of the business owner
would turn up here. "You mean Thomas?" she said. From her accent,
Juggernaut realized that she is a person of Anglo-Indian mixed
Thomas is the son of the old person in the office?" inquired
Thomas is the son and he will be here sometime soon."
you know exactly when?"
he will come any time, no exact time," the slender light skinned
woman looks more like a school girl though an adult.
Rose, you were not from this area," Rose quickly figure it
somebody near the passport office brought me here to get help in
obtaining passport," Juggernaut was still in his thoughts.
sure you get help,' Rose was kind and friendly.
are all these men here?" inquired Juggernaut.
are like you, came here to get passport."
they live here?"
see all those rooms on different floors, they live here until
they get passport."
long it takes to get one,"
all dependents, for some it takes few weeks and for others longer
than that," replied Rose; matter of fact away.
mean weeks?" Juggernaut appeared worried.
even months," Rose wide opened her dark eyes.
need to get mine in few days."
talk to Thomas when he comes," Rose was not convincing.
Juggernaut was really worried now after talking to Rose, on other
hand, he was happy to found Rose, the only person to talk to in
the alien crowd.
wait outside on the street to catch Thomas otherwise once he
enters the court yard you can't catch him," Rose gave a helpful
Juggernaut went out to the street and looked around see a small
rundown coffee house on opposite side of the street. Juggernaut
paid for a cup of coffee; the porcelain cup looked suspicious but
the coffee was hot, sweet and strong. It was very hot outside, so
was the coffee, but Juggernaut felt better with each sip.
all of a sudden with big thunderous noise came a large black
motorbike to stop in front of the building. A fellow with dark
shades on the bike with engine still running looked around as if
he is a person of great importance. Juggernaut rushed to him
before he got out and introduced himself quickly.
need to get a passport to travel?"
you are going?"
port in Spain?"
of Spain is a City in the Caribbean."
heard," said Thomas and revved the engine playfully to stir up
loud noise while Juggernaut was explaining that Port of Spain is
the Capitol of Trinidad, an Island in the Southern most
was brash with a look of arrogance. He was wearing fancy clothes,
gaudy gold rings and thick gold chains hanging around his neck.
With thick dark mustache and well built body, he looked more like
a villain in Indian movies. He placed the bike on the stand and
walked quickly towards the court yard with a leather bag and
Juggernaut followed him quickly to catch up.
soon as Thomas entered the court yard, people came running and
surrounded him as if he was distributing food to a very hungry
removed few passports from a large messenger leather bag and
shouted few names. A handful of people from the crowd rushed
towards him to get close to him. Those people appeared ecstatic
with joy as if they were chosen for facilitation. The others
dispersed away slowly looking dejected.
Juggernaut decided to come back next day to meet Thomas and
provide him with more information since he was busy with the
chosen few making some transactions.
Juggernaut was staying in a motel few miles from the Central
Railway Station and some distance from the travel agency place.
In the beginning, he travelled on auto rickshaw to the travel
agency; after few days he took public transportation to the
travel agency. After a week, he started walking to save money and
kill time. It became a routine to visit the travel agency around
2 PM, chat with Rose and wait outside drinking hot coffee for
Thomas to arrive on his fancy motor bike only to be told to come
week has already passed, Juggernaut was really worried, and he
was running out of money.
are going where to do what?" Thomas inquired one day.
don't know what it is, but let me tell you, I can send you to a
place where you can more money than you never imagined in your
life," said Thomas laughing loudly.
"Where?" Juggernaut appeared puzzled.
same place, I am sending all those men waiting here to go," "none
of them have education like you, but I bet them going to make
more money working in the Middle East," Thomas was still
Juggernaut for the first time learned where the crowd in waiting
was heading. He was not sure whether he was doing the right thing
to go for a higher degree; "perhaps with my education I can make
more money in Middle East," thought Juggernaut. But again, he was
not sure. He decided to wait for his passport to go to the West
you want your passport you need to meet Thomas everyday to remind
him how bad you need your passport, otherwise you will stuck here
for weeks or even months," Rose was kind to Juggernaut.
Juggernaut developed a good rapport with Rose, talking about his
familiarity with Anglo-Indian community back in his home town
hundreds of miles away. Rose appeared happy to talk to Juggernaut
in English rather than in local language with others residing in
visiting every day for over two weeks, "Thomas got out of his
bike and signaled Juggernaut to follow him into the court yard.
Juggernaut followed him. "You got lucky today," said Thomas
pulling a passport from the leather bag.
got my passport?" screamed Juggernaut.
"Somehow I managed to get your passport without the certificate,"
Thomas was holding the passport in his hand high in the air as if
he was teasing a child with a candy.
you, Thank you," Juggernaut was overwhelmed and Rose got up from
her chair looking happy for Juggernaut.
is a genuine passport not a fake, you know," Thomas was boasting
how hard to get passport without proper documentation.
"Juggernaut was holding his passport and looking hard at the
details inside to make sure his name was spelled correctly and
the photo was his for real."
it costs you 500 rupees, because you don't have the proper
the beginning you said it costs around 250 rupees."
be, but it took lot of work to convince the Regional Passport
Officer to get your passport," "I can send you to Middle East
with a guarantee job offer for more money," Thomas was
Juggernaut looked at Rose and saw shaking her head sideways in
subtle manner. Juggernaut got the hint; "No thanks, I decided to
go to the West Indies," Juggernaut paid the amount in full to
take full control of his passport from Thomas.
Juggernaut was happy to get out of the building for the last time
with passport in his hand which appeared elusive for more than
two weeks. Rose was very helpful. Going to the West Indies almost
4 decades ago was a great experience but going to Middle East to
work in oil fiends in early seventies could have been a smart
thing to do. Whenever, Juggernaut looks at his old Indian
passport, the rigmarole he went through to get it particularly to
deal with the brash and arrogant Thomas comes to his mind.