Sunday, August 22, 2010

no english please: we indians are

One of the most innovative things the Indian Consulates in the USA did to celebrate the dawn and morn of 21st century was to convert the paper-driven process of requesting a new passport after your old one had expired to a web-based process that still resulted in dead trees, but arguably eased the pain you went through trying to get everything right. Unfortunately, the documentation to assist applicants appears to have been written and compiled by some really incompetent people. It seems like someone knew the right people in the right department of the consulate and got their nincompoop offspring or nephews/nieces the job. Consider the page offering guidelines on filling the form.
In order to appreciate the radical experiments with the case of letters and the font styles (how bolD!), you will need multiple passes over this page. I would recommend reading the text aloud and screaming when you encounter words that were typed with the caps lock key smashed into the keyboard.

Numerous are the textual pleasures to be found on this page. Let us start with the opening paragraph:

he system is designed to accept 'n' number of applications in one day. When the 'n' number of applications has been reached for the given day, the appointment date rolls over to another date.
The abusive phrase 'n' number is common in Indian English (and rife in the field of IT). This gives us some idea about the kind of person responsible for typing this text. Moreover, not telling us what the possible values of n are is a bold creative move.

Lines like The application is in a secured platform using HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer) used to indicate a secure HTTP connection are enough to tell you how much fun you could have interviewing this person for a technical position.

While completing the online application, please do not enter any special characters such as (,), (.) (/) or symbols such as (@), ($), etc is an example of the abuse of etc. by lazy writers. It has adorned -- nay, sullied -- numerous half-witted technical documents and several PowerPoint slides bleeding with text and bullets.

Even while you enter your 'Phone No.,' 'email address,' and 'mobile'[sic] number' details in the respective boxes, these are not captured in the print out. It is, therefore, necessary, more so for applicants availing of services by mail, that these details are handwritten on the first page to enable the Consulate contact them if need arises is, I am told by a recent applicant, a complete lie.

ON CONFIRMING THE APPOINTMENT, FOUR (4) PAGES WILL PRINT OUT. makes sure that you have both the numeral and its name and are not confused about this trivial matter.

Several sentences are best printed out on the little strips of paper one finds in fortune cookies: If you do it more than once, it affects the others..

The English combines the American and British flavours. How else does one explain color and dialogue box? Moreover, the American dialog box has become the de facto standard for the familiar widget, regardless of the flavour of English you are working with).

The intent behind the bubbles added to the screenshots is fair, but the result is a ghastly eyesore laced with more giggle-inducing flourishes. The label for the fields Visible Marks/Colour of Eyes/Height(cms)/Colour of Hair is you are the best judge of these details. It is nice that you are called upon to judge when only precise information is required.

The only benefit of this form is that it fixes the bug in the previous process because of which your address in the US of A was chosen as the permanent address on your new passport. I am sure a permanent address in the USA made perfect sense for an Indian passport to someone in the consulate.

I leave you with the last image on the page. The piece de resistance. As they say, a picture is worth all the words you can think of to describe it.

PS: Guess what? You can even view the contents of the parent folder. Evidently, this site was set up before .htaccess was born.

the sequel: The other pages offering "guidance" are just as loaded. Consider the page dedicated to Supporting Document[sic]. It features both color and colour. There is also the multi-faceted gem If applying by mail, Photocopy of all supporting documents including Photo should be notarized and attached to the application. If original supporting documents are enclosed, there is no need of notarization. When the original passport is enclosed, there is no need to notarize photocopy. When was the last time you had to take a photocopy of a photograph? A note at the end features poetic abuse of ensure and also notches points for abusing etc. yet again: All mail applications submitted to the Consulate for consular services with a non-trackable return mailing envelope will be returned to the applicant without services. Please ensure to send a trackable return mailing envelope (e.g. Fedex, UPS, USPS, etc..) to ensure traceability of documents after dispatch..

Nearby on a page providing instructions for applications sent by mail ends with text that is best read with innovative pauses and emphatic vocals: The Consulate learns that some agents are claiming to have been appointed by the Consulate General of India and are misleading the public by claiming so. The Consulate informs all the applicants that no repeat no agents have been appointed by the Consulate and that the Consulate deals with members of the public directly.

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