“Major or minor?” asked the man at the counter.
“Uhh … uh … minor. Oh, sorry, major. Now,” I replied hesitantly, with an answer that left me fumbling with the identification papers in my hand.
Left in shock, I could not comprehend the papers in my hand as I started handing out random sheets to the man asking for my passport.
Noticing how I was slowing down the line, my dad stepped in and handed what the man was asking for.
“Major, 18 years old,” the man read out from my expired passport as he sent me through the steel door. On the other side, I joined a group of people of all ages from loud toddlers to old people with white milky hair, who sat and stared at the TV screen while waiting for their turn to renew or issue a passport.
Like others, I picked an empty chair next to a stranger; amongst the shuffle of feet and screaming of toddlers, I found myself on a train of thoughts and worries, starting from the mess I just created in the line a couple of minutes ago.
Fear struck me as I realized the heaviness of the responsibility that tags in with being a legal adult, starting from the age of 18. I really could not blame myself since I had just become a major three days ago when my mom reminded me by wishing me “Happy Birthday” first thing in the morning. Even then, everything was the way it used to be when I was a minor — when I was 17. The birds still chirped, the sun still rose, and the school bell still ordered me around every 50 minutes.
Back in the sweltering room, I continued to stare at the TV screen while waiting for my token to appear next to a counter number. The train of thoughts stormed in again, but bigger and louder than ever. This time it was here to remind me of the important actions that I will be expected to make with confidence. It was here to tell me that I no longer will have my parents help me out or to take care of things that would otherwise distract me from academics.
Further down the tracks, I encountered the part that I was always afraid of: facing the consequences of any mistakes and problems that might result from my actions. Having made many mistakes that left me frozen in my tracks, I could not build the confidence that I needed. However, I knew that one day I will have to as I move on after I graduate from school.
Finally, there it was, my token next to a counter number. The man at the desk was a young adult with a youthful voice that reminded me of the many voices I hear at home and school. The way he simultaneously stapled papers and answered questions regarding clients over his shoulder stood out strongly. His flawless professionalism was not only promising, but it was influential as well. Slowly I realized how everything from the first day of school, to graduation, to college, to a career fits in as we grow older and more independent and confident.
As a middle-schooler four years ago, there was no other place I could be other than the quad school building watching bloopers and football during lunch-time with my friends. And so, entering the gloomy and cold corridors of high school was probably the last thing I wanted. But looking back from present-day in Grade 12, everything worked out properly, I just got used to it and moved on.
The skilled clerk checked my parents’ identification papers, scanned a couple others, took a photo of me and sent me through to a room full of the same people I was sitting with a couple of minutes ago. Soon, I found myself staring at another TV screen, waiting for my turn.
The man at this counter was running through all the identification I had brought with me. Working on a tight schedule, he sprayed commands and orders. This time, I was not stuttering or lost, and I kept up with what was needed as I handed out exactly what he asked for, every single time.
“The address on your passport does not match the one on your school reports,” the man said, looking through the sheets of paper. Originally, there was a spike of panic; however, I could see how I was getting the hang of it when I helped the man confirm my address with my Aadhar Card (nation-wide identification). In the end, everything turned out fine as I made my way back to the row of silver seats, only to stare at the screen to wait for the final round of checking.
To my surprise, I found other people just as confused, and possibly even more, than I was when I first joined.
“Have you done the second-stage yet?” I asked a man sitting next to me.
“Yeah,” he said, pointing to the station I just came from.
“Waiting for the final one. Hopefully,” he added as he turned back to his phone.
“Do you know how the token numbers on the screen work?” he asked me.
“Uhh … yeah … they go in turn with the appointment timing you got originally when you first applied,” I said.
“You’ll probably have your turn before I do since you’ve been here longer,” I added.
It took me a while to realize, but I had just helped someone who needed help, just like how my father had helped me earlier. And that is when these couple of hours in the Passport Seva Kendra (passport agency) became a life lesson. Yeah, sure, there are more responsibilities, such as renewing a passport, for a major. However, with time, confidence, and introspection comes the ability to handle such responsibilities that everyone has to face in life.