My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

My ebook
Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
this link

Friday, September 07, 2007

The majestic passports

The passport is the most amazing invention by mankind. If you don’t already know, your passport is not your property but that of the government that has issued it to you. You have to pay for its making as well as its renewal. Let’s look at an analogous situation: Consider a car company that makes a car, charges you for their building the car without selling it to you, and then asked you to pay for their cost of building a new car every two years. You are not allowed to drive the car but have to take it along with you everywhere with utmost care. All the company will do for you is to put a sticker with your name and picture in the front window of the car. You have to plead to the company to make this car for himself and even pay bribes so that the company makes it fast enough. And worse, somehow it has managed to make it compulsory to agree to all these conditions. The passport issued to you follows a similar economic model.

A passport in India costs $25 and is probably the most expensive scrapbook you will pay for in your life. And considering the price, this scrapbook comes with so few pages. Issuing governments charge a bomb for each request for additional booklet, something that hurts Indians most given that their passport is so favored by foreign embassies for scrapbooking (Indians need VISAs for almost all countries). At least, the issuing government can provide a few more pages with lines in this scrapbook where one can take some notes if one wants to. Gosh, you are not allowed to do that. Given the price we pay for this scrapbook, why are only embassies and immigration authorities allowed to scrapbook on it?

But passports do have some use. Occasionally, they serve as something to flip through and kill time. They can be great material to show off, for games of one-upmanship on how well traveled one is. The thicker, the better. And then, don’t forget the passport photographs. Invariably, they are the funniest mugshots of people. Now that’s worth paying a price for a scrapbook without which people were traveling around the world just fine, till a mere sixty years back.

No comments: