KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Anil learned a couple of years ago, from a friend in Edmonton who was born in Palestine, that having a Canadian citizenship card and a valid Canadian passport with his date of birth, was not enough to satisfy the Canada Pension Plan administrators as to his exact date of birth. They insist that those applying for CPP benefits produce a birth certificate from their country of origin. This is not usually a problem for those born in the Western world, but many developing countries did not issue birth certificates sixty years ago.
Anil mentioned this to his sister, Manju some time ago, as she was born at the same "lying-in" hospital. Anil knew that his parents had lived in an apartment in Parel (a district of Mumbai) and that there had been a maternity hospital on the main floor of the building. When it was time for his mother to give birth, she simply went down to the main floor and got it over with. Manju mentioned to Anil that she should probably think about getting a birth certificate herself, and that her new son in law, Deven Parabu, loved to go on these kinds of adventures, searching in the Kafkaesque offices of the Indian government.
Anil was in touch with Deven via email and Deven wrote back that he had located the building and done some preliminary searching, but that to go any further, he would have to have Anil present because there would be several forms that Anil would have to sign to satisfy the bureaucrats. As we were planning on visiting India, Anil asked Deven to put things on hold till we arrived in November.
Deven picked us up from the Kapoors’ one day and off we went on an adventure to see Anil's place of birth and to hunt for a confirmation that he was born, when and where. We started out at a Municipal Office where all the old ledger books are kept from all the maternity homes and hospitals. The place was amazing and full of other people looking for proof that their birth was registered so that they took could get an official document confirming their date of birth. There are many reasons that people need to get one, I am pretty sure that we were the only ones there that needed it for the CPP. People were really staring at me as I followed along behind Anil and Deven.
I took a couple of pictures of the huge registers that are piled everywhere in the large dusty office. There are cabinets all along the wall of the room, each filled with register books. Anil and Deven both feel that my presence, and my request to take some photographs, helped to encourage the clerk to do his utmost to find the register for Anil's "lying-in" hospital. The attitude of these clerks is usually one of studied indifference, but the one we spoke to seemed very efficient and in no time at all he was able to locate Register Number 26 for the correct maternity hospital. It took a little time because the hospital has changed hands a couple of times in the intervening years and had even changed names during the last handover. The pages in the register were all filled with hand written entries and many of the pages were beginning to disintegrate. Moths, mildew and time had all taken their toll.
Alas, the first entry in Register Number 26 was for September 27, 1947 and Anil was born on Sept 9th. No problem, we thought, we just need to look at Register Number 25. It was then that the clerk told us that Register 25 was missing, it could not be located. Rats, we missed the register in hand by only two weeks. He told us that a search could me made of the duplicate copies made and stored in another location, but that we would have to pay a fee and wait several weeks. Anil came over to me and said he wasn't sure it would be worth the expense of the fee they were asking. When I asked him how much it would be, he smiles and said "19 rupees". I laughed; it was less than 50 cents!
We paid the fee, got a receipt from the clerk that confirmed that a search would be undertaken and we headed out of the busy office to visit the maternity hospital itself. Deven led us through the neighbourhood - it was only a twenty-minute walk away and the weather was pleasant. I took a picture of Anil and Deven under the street sign before we walked along the tree-lined street to find the building near the end at the corner. Anil recognized the building, only because he had seen some pictures of it at home in Patna. When we entered the building, we read the resident board and found that a Kapoor family is still living there (although the spelling they use is a little different). The maternity hospital is still on the ground floor and when we went inside, we found it in quite a modern state and I noticed a couple of women lying on cots in one of the rooms, most likely in labour and waiting to give birth themselves.
Anil was quite thrilled to find the building and we took a couple of photos of the interior and the exterior of the building. I will keep you posted on our adventure when we return later in the spring to see what if anything, they will find in the bowels of the Indian Government records storage.