Manjula’s Crazy Year

we’re looking back on what has been a momentous year for Manjula.

If only for the lots of holidays in India: Kerala three times (twice to Kannur Beach House), Hampi and lots of local day trips. Sorting out her inconsistent IDs, getting her Passport, submitting tax returns, obtaining a visa for the UK and the BIGGY her first trip outside the country.

Now she’s just signed the documents to become a Director of MyCycle Tours and Travels Private Limited.

She reckons that coming to work for me (yes she did actually work for me, originally) and this house has been really lucky

So what next? watch this space.


What a wonderful birthday!

Manjula had a great time on her 43rd Birthday. Yes she’s 43!

Travelling out to Srirangaptnam for Puja at the Rangatha Temple to visit Ranga, Laxmi, Garuda, Narsima and Hanuman (so many Gods in one place!) and dinner at hotel Roopa in the evening. Over 43 friends from around the world via facebook and email sent their greetings.. That also helped make her day.

She now is planning her 50th party in the UK!

Farrell Factoid

The Yorkshireman reached deep down into his pocket to pay for the meal for twelve people which cost much less than a recent, probably typical meal in London for three 🙂

As always in India it’s critical to get to the story under the surface. When I first met her, Manjula had three different birthdates. In India when someone doesn’t have a birth certificate (most poor and rural people, above a certain age) they use their TC or Transfer Certificate from school as evidence of their date of birth. As part of the rationalisation of her various inconsistent and conflicting forms of ID she had to sort it out and go for one.

She is a Queen but one birthday is enough!

You’ve asked for more detail

What’s in a name 6B?

Well, we seem to have ‘hit a chord’ with our imaginary board game.  There has been interest via facebook, our web site and directly to our blog.  Here’s a little more detail to satisfy your thirst. Rememeber, we’re doing this to get a passport!

PAN card, Manjula has already registered to pay tax. It was relatively easy, handled by our accountant.

PAN Card

We shoot ahead with this one! Maybe it’s not exactly playing the game but we did apply in advance, almost as a ‘dry-run.’

The PAN card is a registration to pay tax and is useful, amongst other things, to prove one’s name.




The Aadhar Card is the Indian name for the ID card, now becoming familiar the world over.

It works as a universal ID to help access a whole range of services.  Based on biometrics (really?)  it’s invaluable BUT… in Manjula’s case, she was listed as a male, name was incorrect and it was an old address. (no comment) So there needed to be significant changes (really!).

What is cool about this system is, it’s all amendable online: no brokers (aka middlemen), no need to visit offices nor queing. Absolutely fab!  Requests to amend the details are submitted online. Updates are dealt with at a contact centre and confirmed or rejected via Email and SMS (text)  At this stage, I’m overcome with serious enthusiasm.

I register with the system. (as Manjula of course… your wouldn’t believe how much her reading and computer skills have really, come-on 😉 )

I amend everything ALL at once. BIG BIG mistake. ALL rejected. Now then Stephen, listen up, less of the ‘bull in a China shop’ or ‘at a gate?’ go at it a little more gently.. Shanti Shanti. OK, so I submit the changes one by one,  waiting each time for the confirmation of success before trying the next.

Sorted! Big achievements all round.

Quackety Quack


But next, we need proof of her address to show she has lived a for over a year at Moksha ‘Manor.’ An accepted way to do this is a bank account.

A stroke of luck.

I opened an account for Manjula years ago. With a couple of changes, a passbook newly printed off, her photo added together with  a print off of the transactions of the previous year, a letter from the bank manager with a stamped photo of Manjula and Ducks away!



imageand finally, (I’m joking.. its not finally, stay with us guys) we need evidence of her Date of Birth.

In a traditionally informal society, such as this and especially for those people from a poor background, they would generally, not have a birth certificate.  Evidence of their age and date of birth would therefore usually come from the school leaving or transfer certificate.

We’d first obtained it as part of the PAN process but needed to get it re-issued. sorted easily.

There’s another Donald Duck!



So we now have formal evidence of Manjula’s name, gender, image, her father’s name, her date of birth, age, and address (for over a year).

You might feel a bit exhausted just hearing the story.

I can assure you it’s been quite an ordeal just getting to this stage.

In real time (ie not blog time) it has taken months!

We’re now in a position to apply online for a passport…… What does the future hold?







What’s in a name 6

All we want is a passport, so Manjula can visit the UK. Is that too much to ask?

Well it feels so much like a board game we’ve created our own. Looks complicated? Well it is!

We’ve had to find four items of ID to prove:





date of birth

and ensure they are all accurate and consistent (no mean feat).

Move down each vertical line to realise each of the things we’ve had to complete. Sometimes we’ve had to create something from scratch, with others we’ve amended most of the key details, with others, well we’ve been running alongside Alice for some of the way and no were not mad, yet!

This is however, only part of the journey and until we’d got all these forms of ID we were unable to submit the application for Manjula’s passport. Well we’ve passed another significant milestone and we are now ready to apply.

imageImagine you are a poor illiterate person. Admittedly, if you’re poor, you’ll be less likely to require a passport, but that’s to miss the point. I reckon most people would find this intimidating. Bureaucracy seems to be designed to hinder people and not to help. When you understand the complexity of something that should be relatively simple you can see how disabling this is and how ‘brokers’ are so necessary in life. All this causes stress ( I can vouch for that) and money!!

Half life finished

Manjula voted today for the first time in her life. A momentous occasion. Well done Manj!

Check the photo of Manj. Here’s the mark of the indelible ink on her thumb to prove she’s voted and can’t therefore vote a second time.


Of course, I’m not allowed to tell you her voting preference or her age but she received her very first voting ID just this week and declared that she’d got one at this late stage i.e. with ‘half life finished‘ so better late than never, eh?

We arrived by scooter 30 mins before the voting station was due to open, at the school close to where Manjula used to live. [Trumpets Blaring] We were waiting for her mother and father to join us. This was a serious family outing.


There were a few people hanging around, a lady selling milk at the corner and a foreigner (me). The first sign of official life was the arrival of the army. Punjabis who were down from Delhi. They and the Police begin by insisting that there was no selling or loitering (aka innocently hanging around), cars or two wheelers parked within 200 metres of the school. The lady selling bags of milk at the corner was clearly not happy but she had to go. I was obviously not loitering. I was however sitting on a bench on the corner well within the exclusion zone but as a foreigner I’d got my ‘get out of jail free/community chest card from Monopoly’ and as I’d bonded with the sergeant, so there was no issue. I was allowed to stay.


Manj went over to a scrum of people to check whether she was on the list and able to vote. She was, hooray! Her mum was less fortunate (and now I’ve hear that there were many other people like her) she had her card but was not on the official list. So unable to vote. Manj’s mum came round to the house later on. She had found her name on the list held by a man loitering 201 metres down the road so was able to vote. (Just don’t ask as I’ve no idea,, India is an enigma)


But why had it taken so long for Manj to be able to vote?

Who knows?

The fact that she hasn’t had an ID card of any description until very recently reveals such a lot. The world’s biggest democracy has some difficulties reaching all the communities to enable them to use their vote. Understandable in many ways. There are two thirds of 1.3 billion people eligible to vote.  A poor woman initially from a rural background is likely to find it most difficult.

Its especially difficult the poorer you are and in particular for women.

She now has Aadhaar card (general ID), BPL Card, Election card, and also very importantly another means of ID which is her bank account. So what does it reveal? Has something changed?

Something has changed in her life and in general.

People are now much more conscious of the need to get an ID card. They may need them to get a bank account which in turn will allow them access to benefits ranging from subsidised gas, health services and foodstuffs for those Below Poverty Line (BPL). The introduction of the Aadhaar, a general ID card, supposedly being issued to all the population has had a significant impact. Prior to this Manjula just had her school leaving certificate. A critical document for especially poor people but still not a lot of use.

It’s pretty clear (and shocking) that a woman’s official identity is linked with a man: father, husband, step father, employer. Ask Manj for her name and she doesn’t know what to say beyond Manjula. Her father died, she’s divorced from her husband, and mum remarried so not to put to fine a point on it… I’m now probably the most significant man in her life!!!

Manjula as ever, the ‘together’ woman that she is, has with her mum and step dad, got out there and asserted her rights.


I’ve tried to do my little bit. Hence she now has a bank account and regular payments of her monthly measly pay into her account. All of it contributes to helping her become more ‘official’ and who knows where that might lead? One day she might even get a passport and do some international travelling 😉