I renewed my driving license (DL) recently without paying a tout, the usual route advised by my gym trainer, ex-colleague and many others. As I found out (first up, I googled: how to get DL in Gurgaon, Haryana), some e-savvy touts advertise online.

The promotional literature describes (in very bad English) dealing with a government department as the most horrible experience that no self-respecting individual, human or otherwise, should endure.

“We know how to deal with government cancer. Our customers can relax,’’ read one promo. I registered with an online tout service. Promptly, a girl executive (one can guess the age from the overexcited tones) sounding smarter than credit card and insurance telemarketers called for details. I decided not to pursue the matter.

Call it the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) effect on me, but I decided to brazen it out. By the way I believe Arvind Kejriwal’s left-leaning economic policies are anachronistic. I would easily settle for corrupt rich India than corruption-free poor India, which is contradiction in itself.

Anyway, back to the driving license process. The hall at the mini secretariat in Gurgaon where licenses are dispensed to regular citizens (the real aam aadmi that cannot afford a tout) is quite large. The queue to procure the license is much bigger, spilling out into the corridors outside.

The driving license queue. Not for the faint of heart. Pic: Siddharth Srivastava.

There are many desks in the driving license hall occupied by sundry minor government functionaries, mostly free, busy in gossip, snacks and jokes. The long driving license queue is serviced by an overworked, overweight, hassled and harried official, handling all paperwork singlehandedly.

Someone told me government has appointed one person to handle all the driving license paperwork. Creating another such position that would reduce processing time by half is a major administrative exercise that needs to involve higher officials, maybe a minister, and legislature.

In short, it will never happen in my lifetime. Inflexibility is a limitation of government that has been debated for a long time. If the AAP sets this right, it would be a great achievement, though they need to realize they need to govern now and stop fighting the system. They are the system. They are no longer activists. At the hall, most other officials while away their time over tea and samosas while citizens endlessly wait for their turn to meet the harried driving license official, or just give up and hire a tout.

Incidentally, the chap behind me in line happened to be a tout who good naturedly offered to take care of the process for a couple of thousand rupees. For him, this was just another day at the office.

“Why waste your time?’’ he asked me. “Go and do your work and make money. The main aim of the government is to make it very difficult for regular citizens to get a DL the regular way. You pay us, we pay their cut and the job gets done quickly. It is very simple.’”

But, inspired by AAP, I had decided not to bribe and I was not going to let a seedy tout break my resolve, though it was tempting as I was already hungry and needed to pee, outside.

After a good three hours of waiting time, involving some amount of pushing, shoving, arguing with line breakers, and those with references and contacts, my facetime with the hariried official did finally materialize. For an instant he scrutinized me eagle-eyed. I understood the message very clearly: “Why the f..k are you here a..hole? You could have just paid a tout? I have lost my cut and you have wasted your time. You are an idiot.’’

Anyway, I had my paperwork in place, three copies of proof of identity and address that Hanumanji could not reject. He knew I had stood in line for three hours and would fight crazily if he dismissed my papers without reason. He signed and tossed my documents on a pile behind him.

“Your driving license will reach you in two weeks,’’ he said in a tone that conveyed my status in the hall was lower than a cockroach. My driving license has arrived. It took me three working days to procure one without paying a bribe.

One day for the right forms and advice. One day for the driving test which involved dealing with another overworked official while other officials lazed around in the winter sun. The pic below is self-descriptive. My advice to those not very Aam Admi seeking a driving license: hire a tout.

Pic: Siddharth Srivastava.

This article by Siddarth Srivastava first appeared on his Mocking Indian blog. Siddharth has just released his first novel, ‘an offbeat story’. It is available to buy here.