Saturday, February 9, 2013

Are you really Born?

If someone confronts us and asks "Are you really Born?", what is the answer? We may not answer the question and instead think that the one asking the question is really mad.  "How can I be standing here if I am not really born?" could be the counter question.

"The Day of the Jackal" is a famous novel written by Frederick Forsyth and was made into a highly successful movie by the same name with Edward Fox playing the role of "The Jackal". The story revolves around an attempt by the French dissident group, OAS, to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle by hiring a professional killer. Lt. Col. Mark Rodin of OAS and his two deputies meet the contract killer in Italy and agree on the code name "The Jackal". The code name is known to only these four. The assassin obtains a legitimate British Passport  under a false name and embarks on his mission. Two efficient police officers, Superintendent Bryn Thomas of the Scotland Yard at the UK end and Deputy Commissioner of Police Claude Lebel of the Paris police on the France side, attempt to trace the identity and track the movement of the assassin. London police raid the house of one Charles Calthrop suspecting that he is the hired assassin and find his passport there.  The first three letters of the words in his name CHA-CAL in French or Spanish translates to JACKAL in English. Jackal's attempt fails and he is killed by Claude Lebel.  As the coffin of the Jackal is being lowered in an unmarked grave on the outskirts of Paris, Calthrop, who was holidaying in Scotland, walks into his house and demands to know from the British Police why his house is being searched. The identity of Jackal is never known.  The officers are left wondering, "If  Jackal was not Calthrop, then who the hell was he?". The Jackal  was buried as "an unknown foreign tourist, killed in a car accident". As per the records, Jackal was neither born nor died as his identity was never known. His identity was never known since he did not have either a birth certificate or a passport with him!

A few decades ago, one could take birth and die, and lead a happy life in between, without any problem. That is not the case today. We need a proper document for everything.  And passwords for almost everything. A person cannot be treated as actually born unless there is a Birth Certificate. Death cannot be accepted without a proper Death Certificate. Life between birth and death cannot be recognized without a Passport, for most of them. Thus a proper Birth Certificate and Passport have become the documents on which a smooth life floats. As regards Death Certificate, the dead body cannot be buried or cremated without a death certificate.  It may not make life any different for the dead man, fortunately. In many cases, a proper death certificate for the dead is very important for smooth life of the living, especially if the dead has left behind some property. It is, therefore, necessary for us to understand how to obtain a proper, legally accepted and valid Birth Certificate and Passport.

Gone are the days when a child could be admitted to a school based on a horoscope given by the friendly neighborhood astrologer. A Birth Certificate issued by the Registrar of Births and Deaths is required for admitting a child to school. In the context of our custom, a child is usually named on the 11th day after birth and sometimes even later. Hospital or Nursing Home authorities are duty bound to inform the Registrar about the births (of course, death also) taking place in their place every day. They do their duty and the birth of the child is duly recorded in the registrar's office. A birth certificate issued based on such information does not, naturally, carry the name of the child. Added to this is the practice of writing names with multiple spellings.  (One of the finest All India Radio Drama producers, who later retired as Director of one of AIR's stations, had a letter head with a note:  Wasant Kawli - please note the spelling of my name!  He used to receive letters addressed to him mostly as Vasantha Kavali).  It is very common to find names being spelt differently. Such a birth certificate is incomplete and creates many problems during the course of education, employment and other stages of life. In western countries, it is mandatory to give two names for the arriving child well before the time of delivery, one name each for a boy and a girl. The name of the child is recorded in a tag attached to the arm or leg of the new born. Reporting to the registrar will include the name of the child and mother. A birth certificate issued based on such information automatically includes the child's name.

What is the solution for such a problem? How can we get a proper and valid birth certificate that can save the child and us from unwanted problems later in life? The following  steps can help us to obtain a proper Birth Certificate:
  • Be ready with a name for the expected baby - one boy's name and one girl's name.  (If you are able to find a name that can be used for both, even better!).  If twins are expected, have two sets of names ready. This takes care of a contingency if both are boys or girls!
  • The name chosen should have three parts; first name, middle name and surname. This facilitates issue of a proper passport later.  If the family does not have a surname, invent one!  (This will avoid a visa later on with a name such as NIL NIL KUMAR.  One Kumar with his name as just "Kumar" and no surname was issued a visa with the name NIL NIL Kumar). 
  • Have a sheet of paper on which the father's and mother's name are also written in Block Capitals so that they are not spelt wrongly. These should be as you want them on the Birth Certificate.
  • Have the full postal address of the parents written on this sheet, with PIN Code. Admission of the expectant mother is usually done by a close relative or friend. They should be advised to handover this sheet to the Hospital/Nursing Home at the time of admission.
  • Mere handing over such a sheet of paper does not suffice.  Hospital staff are experts in messing up these details. Make sure that the details are entered properly in the computer system or registers, if done manually. The entry in the records of the hospitals should be seen and checked, even if the new born baby is not seen properly. Earning the displeasure of the hospital should not really matter. It is better than facing multiple problems later on.
  • Visit the Registrar's office without delay, apply for a Birth Certificate and verify the details in the certificate very carefully. More carefully than you count and check cash when receiving it from a bank cashier.
  • Apply for multiple copies, say five copies, and keep them in at least two different places.
What about the certificates that are already obtained and does not have the child's name on it or details are not correct? There is a simple procedure to rectify the deficiencies. Simple to explain but often complicated to execute.
  • An application for amendment is to be made to the Registrar in the prescribed form giving details of amendments to be made.
  • The existing certificate has names of parents but not of the child. Hence an acceptable document linking the date of birth of the child with parent's name is to be produced. A School Leaving Certificate or SSLC marks card would suffice.
  • If the names of parents are wrongly spelt or details are incorrect, an affidavit is to be sworn to before a Magistrate and original affidavit is to be produced. An affidavit before a Notary Public is not acceptable. 
  • Meet the Registrar, explain the case, persuade him by producing suitable documents and  advancing logical and reasonable arguments, and obtain an amended certificate.
  • Certificates are now issued with digital signatures and are not signed manually.
Issue of Passports is now done only on production of a Birth Certificate. Hence ensuring that your child has a proper Birth Certificate is of paramount importance. A valid and proper Birth Certificate is the first gift from the parents to a new born child !    


  1. complications are more in my case .If I narrate it will be an article double of what youy have narrated

    1. you must narrate rather than just boasting over here.

  2. Liked v.interesting subject u have analysed in detail,thanku.

  3. very very important fact of life explained in the most hilarious way possible. I have come across real life cases like the one explained in the article. I am straight away recommending this article to my children as well as those newly weds in the neighbourhood.

  4. I think for accuracy or at least consistency the system of registering important demographic events is necessary, althouigh it may lead to irritating events/issues described so well in the article. The idea of giving all details to the hospital authorities before the birth of a child is brilliant, and if the hospitals are also fully computerised, they should give a print out of the details captured, to the parents and get it counter signed as acceptance.

    You have chosen a very relevant topic to highlight!

  5. A very informative article sir. But I wonder how you can remember all the details of the movie Day of the jackal! Brilliant.

  6. A great article and road map to child expecting parents to ensure hassle free life for their children.