In this era of ‘Digital India’, booking a movie ticket, purchasing a product, paying bills or transferring money can all be done online. Sitting in the comfort of my room, I would usually feel that the world had decided to make itself available at my fingertips. As an erstwhile Banking professional, I strongly advocated the usage of online portals as a medium to save time and harrowing experiences of standing in a queue. Of course, there are people like my seventy-year-old father who have no trust in this virtual medium and still prefer to visit a Bank or the local market in person. But we belong to the generation of comfort-seekers and I had no clue that my life was going to become so offline dependent once the school admission season started.
The first school which came out with the admission notice (the interview in English only one) delighted us with the option of having forms available through both online and offline mode. We had assumed the rest of the schools in our list would have a similar process. It came as a rude shock when the next school (a new age school with world-class infrastructure and facilities) asked us to collect the form in person either from the school campus or a designated Bank branch.
The next school was even more difficult. We had to collect the forms from their school campus during a designated duration (three hours only) on any of the two dates mentioned in the notice. This school was famous for forms getting out of stock on the first day itself. For a 200 student intake, the number of applications always went to 2000. From what we had heard, the parents had to stand in a queue outside the school campus from as early as 5 am (I am sure this will remind you of the movie Hindi Medium starring Irrfan Khan or the Bengali movie Ramdhanu). Though the reality was not so disastrous, the number of parents standing in the queue on day one was more than to a thousand.
Even for the other three schools that we had decided to apply to, the process involved offline issuance of forms only. Like I had previously mentioned, with a husband posted in a different town, it was always me who ended up standing in a queue beating the hot and humid weather and hunger pangs. This seemed to be life’s way of getting even with me. The only time that I had ever stood in a queue until then was to get an entry in a restaurant in Bangalore over the weekend. What I hadn’t realized at that point was that this was just the first phase or beginning of standing in queues.
The second phase of queueing happened during submission of filled application forms along with attached requisite documents in the school. In most of the schools, this was usually a two-step process which involved verification of documents at one counter and submission at a different window. Basically, we moved from queue 1 to queue 2 and seemed to be stuck in the same or different rooms for hours. Submission usually had just a forty-eight-hour duration at pre-decided timing by the school.
Out of the six schools that we had applied for, one of the schools had an unusually strict process of shortlisting. So 1500 children were shortlisted of 2000 + applications post which we had to queue up again to complete the registration process for the future interaction. This third stage of queueing usually happened on a single day only within a two-hour duration which meant this turned out to be the longest queue in all these three stages of queuing. I guess this is how the school passed on the message to the parents that the struggle had only begun.
The fourth stage of queuing was generally organized since it involved a shorter duration to reach the stage of interaction. Usually, the interviews were taken based on the sequence of registration or application numbers bringing down the waiting period. There were a couple of exceptions though where the interaction was poorly mismanaged and no sequence was maintained.
The fifth stage of queueing had more resemblance to a luxury boutique store with a limited period of sale having people gather outside for the store to open. Once the store opened, the force with which people rushed inside could only be compared to the flow of passengers in and out of any Mumbai local train. In case, you are still wondering about the strange fifth stage, it happens on the date when the results of selection or rejection are announced. The new age schools maintain an online portal to check the results while for the traditional ones, the only way to know them is to fight it out with a thousand other people in front of the notice board. While taller people have an advantage in spotting the names earlier because of their height, there are exceptions like Sr. T who could be the only one standing in front of the notice board and yet fail to locate Tuneer’s name or roll number.
Once the child gets selected to a school, the parent heaves a sigh of relief. Sadly, it turns out to be a reaction given out too soon. The sixth stage of queueing happens on the date of admission of the child. The process of submission might simply involve handing over of the requisite documents along with the Demand Draft (the most essential item) or it could be a multiple staged process consisting of a collection of new forms, filling them and submitting them in various counters.
The seventh stage of queueing follows soon after with the parents waiting in lines to collect books, school uniforms, school shoes and the rest of the mandatory merchandise from various counters and spots of the school. The completion process of the seventh stage could actually involve a single visit or multiple visits.
After getting done with all the requisite formalities for the child to start school, the parents can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. It turns out to be an emotion expressed too early again. Because on the first day of the school, parents realize that the department of queueing has only shifted from the admission office to the front of the school gate. Now they stand in line to hand over their child to the respective class teacher and then wait in front of the designated spot to collect the child back from school. Instead of calling this the eighth stage, I would rather label it as the first stage in queuing in the life of a school going toddler’s parent that is expected to undergo more such eventful queuing struggles for the next one year.
I hope you enjoyed reading the above-mentioned experiences since I had a lot of fun recollecting them today. I will be back with a fresh post on ‘R’ tomorrow. You can catch up on my previous posts in this series here.