For decades together, I always thought , being alive was the default, and you only needed a certificate to prove you were dead.
No longer so. Has not been so, apparently for donkey's years.
Having taken voluntary retirement 9 years ago, I am required to certify my "alive" status every six months, to those that generously beqeath a pension to me.
It is called a "Life Certificate".
One goes to the office, asks for the forms, and one is pointed to an area where they lie tied up in a greatly ignored heaped splendour. You enter your details, and get it signed by a person of approved seniority. I mean you are there in flesh and blood, walking, talking, in your senses, and so on, but the 5 folks amidst whose desks you wander cannot certify that you are alive.
And so ,I walk into an office cabin, where someone with the appropriate seniority sits, hold up the sheet, and smile and say " Certificate that I am alive!" . The needful is done amidst much smiling, the paper returned to another heap, and I am done for another six months.
Some people must do this at banks, where their pension is deposited, since they stay possibly in another city away from their erstwhile working places.
There is a nationalized bank branch in Pune, where my late father had his pension account. This particular branch was like a pensioners' haven in the first few days of each month, with various folks, some shuffling with canes, some hard of hearing, some with failing eyesights, and some fit enough to shame obese young bikers, would congregate.
Whenever the staff had to guide someone about something regarding paperwork/signatures et al, they had to speak in a loud voice since so many had hearing problems, and they would then themselves answer back in a loud ringing voice, to the immense amusement of other customers of the bank. I handled my father's things in his last few months, and one of the staff even cribbed and said how stubborn these folks are and how they refuse to listen to things; how they fire the bank for not showing their deposits and simply forget that they had already withdrawn something; and how they simply nod and wave their hands when reminded about adding a nomination to their account .
But it was nice to see the younger staff going around attending to the Ajobas , Ajis and Kakas, and being patiently respectful with them.
Turns out that if your pension account has accumulated without withdrawls for , say 3 months, the bank investigates why. After a while the amount gets credited to the nation's treasury. I am talking about the situation alomost 9 years ago. Rules might have changed.
I was asked to see the manager. My father was bedridden but alert, and I was advised that one could ask for bank staff to come home , and have a withdrawl slip signed/thumbprint taken, and duly certified and stamped by the bank staff. You provided transport to the bank people. So I wrote in an application, and was asked to come to the bank in the afternoon to escort the staff to our home.
I arrive in an autorickshaw. I am surprised to see a manager type getting ready to accompany me to our house, 5 minutes away by vehicle.
My father is happy to see the bank come to him, and goes through the various signing/thumbprint stuff. His hand shakes and his signature might not match. The bank certifies.
We get up, and get ready to leave. The aforementioned staff looks around the house as we reach the front door. As we turn on to the last set of steps leading down to the ground floor, he looks at me and says , "Have you thought about renting this place ? The bank would be interested for its officers ..."
I try to control my temper. I must escort him back to the bank, where the documents he carries will reflect that a withdrawl was effected , indicating movement in the pension account.
And then , I look up at him, and look him in the eye, and say , "You know , my father lives here......."
Yes. It is complicated.
This effort of proving that one is alive. In a blatant thoughtless world , where death is the default. Death of empathy, understanding and good sense.
P. S. The bank just lost two accounts of mine.