License to travel

Finally after 2 months of running from pillar to post Adi’s passport arrived. You’d think it’ll be easy to get one for a newborn.. after all, he isn’t a criminal or anything. But nope! Bureaucracy has its own ways…

The story began in October 2018 when I naively looked up the required application procedure and documentation on the passport portal, filled the form, took an appointment and showed up at the passport office with a then 3 month old baby in tow. I had everything they asked for, and I was very confident that getting this very important identity proof would be a piece of cake. I had the application form, my passport, our pictures, Adi’s birth certificate, Gaurav’s death certificate, and the 2 annexure forms the website had asked me to fill – surrogacy and single parent. That should be enough right? Apparently not!

So I meandered through the multiple check points in the passport office, got my token, submitted the documents, got them verified, and finally reached the last mile – the desk of the official who would approve or reject the application. I was met with an old woman who took one look at Adi’s birthdate (Aug 2018), and the date on Gaurav’s death certificate (Aug 2015) – and was immediately confused. To her credit, she gave me 30 seconds to explain why I have a baby who’s father passed away 3 years ago, and then decided it was beyond her jurisdiction/capacity to decide this one. So off I was sent to the office of the Incharge. As I waited dangling my poor sleeping baby in a harness (over 3 hours now since we walked in), I had a sinking feeling that this was not going to be the cake walk I expected. I met with the person in charge – and though she was very sweet and sympathetic, and listened to the story, and said I was very brave; I was told that there are no guidelines on a baby born via IVF and surrogacy. I countered that there are guidelines for surrogacy as I have attached the annexure that asks me to attest that the baby was born via surrogacy. I was told that only surrogacy would have been ok, it’s the IVF that is the problem!!!! Obviously telling them that surrogacy and IVF go hand in hand, and the former is not possible without the latter was waste of breath. So I was referred to the regional passport office as a special case.

When I took the appointment for the RPO, I took additional measures РI collected all reports, the consent forms signed by Gaurav and me when we had started this process, a letter from the hospital stating that legally and genetically Adi is our son, as well as all the media mentions our story had got. And there we were again, Adi hanging in his harness and me loaded top to bottom in baby diapers, formula, hot water, wipes, documents and what not.  We camped at the RPO from 10 in the morning till beyond 2 in the afternoon Рthere were of course no facilities to change a baby. There was a feeding room, that just had one chair! Still we hung on, and after we went through the whole story again, we were told there is still more documentation to be submitted, requiring another visit. And here is what I finally ended up giving them:

  1. Birth Certificate of Adi, listing us as the parents
  2. Death certificate of Gaurav
  3. My passport, with name of Spouse added as Gaurav Shanbhag
  4. Certificate of marriage registration of Supriya Jain and Gaurav Shanbhag
  5. IVF consent form signed by Supriya Jain and Gaurav Shanbhag
  6. Hospital reports about sperm freezing and IVF procedures
  7. Letter from the hospital attesting to the procedure and parentage
  8. Agreement with Surrogate mother
  9. Annexure D
  10. Annerxure I
  11. Media coverage on this issue

Thankfully the hospital was very supportive, else I would not have been able to collect quite a bit of this.

After this, I was told that police verification will happen at 2 places, our place of residence in Bangalore and in Mumbai where the hospital is. And once the RPO sent the file for verification, it is our job to ensure that verification happens! So we followed up locally and got it done in Bangalore, but getting it done in Mumbai was another story. So first the RPO forgot to send the request to Mumbai, then when they sent the request the police station wanted a letter from the HoD of the hospital, when that was sent the person who contacted us from the police station went off radar. Calling the station got us some vague excuse about VIP movement and everyone being busy. Finally I had to resort to social media and write out my frustration to our Minister of External Affairs. Thankfully someone in her office is doing their job and a day after I wrote on FB and Twitter I got a notification that the passport is approved and is sent for printing. It arrived in the post yesterday, exactly 3 months after I had first set foot in the passport office!

Finally Adi has the license to travel… and hopefully we shall have many adventures ahead!

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