Born again in English

My daughter was born in Gujarati, yes in Gujarati, and not just in Gujarat. That was because her birth certificate was in shudh Guajarati and at that time, that was in the early 1970s, I as a father, did not visualise my daughter’s future.

So I did not bother about an English version; nor was I sure if at that time a Gujarati version of that coveted document was available at all because Gujarat was full of Gujarati and English was a scarce commodity. So I clutched it, and wonder of wonders, preserved it, and for that at least I should take some credit myself, if no one else is giving.

Oh! I forgot to tell you that it did not contain her name and yet it was her birth certificate which fetched her passport and visa. Those days in Gujarat, the municipality issued birth certificate mentioning the gender of the baby and the names of parents, the date, and the time of birth. The naming ceremony took place later, but one did not have to wait for that to get a proof of birth. I did not.

Now, that is some four decades later, my daughter, herself a mother, needed an English version of that government proof of her birth with her name duly mentioned. Can I or will I help? — the call came from New York.

Can I? Having moved out of Gujarat, I hardly had any contacts there. All my friends of those days had left for safer pastures, or were with God. So, who will help me? I raked my brains and lo! a journalist friend appeared on my mental radar. Luckily, we were still in touch. I sought his help.

All that this busybody did was to put me in touch with his friend, a retired senior government official. After patiently listening to my predicament over phone and emails, he in turn put me in touch with another person. And what did this another link do? Well, he is the hero of this episode. That is Rajnibhai. All this took place over phone and we did not even know how the two looked.

What next? “Come over,” said Rajnibhai to my daughter in a cheery voice. So my daughter landed in Ahmedabad with all sorts of documents, like old birth certificate, duplicate school leaving certificate, ID proof, passport, pan card, marriage certificate et al. Because you will never know what the government babu demands! And a smiling, paan-chewing Rajnibhai met her in the hotel and took over the job.

What would she do? “Go round and discover Ahmedabad,” Rajnibhai told her and disappeared. Well, it was actually a rediscovery of sorts for her because she was after all born there but had only vague memories of the city being too young when she left. She visited the house where she was born and had a taste of Guajarati hospitality from the present occupants who insisted that she partake lunch with them. An auto driver who took a detour by mistake to the Gandhi Ashram felt uncomfortable for the faux pas and took the normal fare and shocked my daughter who is used to the fleecing nature of that tribe in Bengaluru.

Rajnibhai called the next morning to say that the revised birth certificate was ready and the translated version in shudh English would be ready the next day and both would be dispatched by courier to her. She flew out of Ahmedabad hoping Rajnibhai would keep his word. He did, and as promised, the two certificates, neatly laminated, reached her.
Rajnibhai is a true Good Samaritan. He didn’t charge a single rupee for all that he did. Who is this man? Why did he help a stranger? Does he help others too with the same zeal? Will we meet him again? We do not know, but thanks to him, my daughter, as she herself put it later, is now born in English too!Rajnikant is known to do impossible things in reel life. But this Rajnibhai did it in real life for us.

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