This morning I discovered I don’t have the temperament for white collar crimes. I woke up to an SMS from the Income Tax Department. “DMTINNSDL” (no idea what that stands for) told me that there was a discrepancy in my papers; letter has been sent; call on blah blah number or visit the website for details. My nerves were a-flutter. Forget this “discrepancy business”, India’s Income Tax Department has become efficient enough to send SMS? But this was nothing. In my inbox was an email. From the Income Tax Department. It had a pdf attached which contained the annexure that detailed the discrepancy in my papers.
My knees wobbled.
Peeps at the Income Tax Department communicate by email? There are government officers who know how to create pdf documents and attach them to emails? Dear god. What has happened to my country? Where is the ineptitude and inefficiency and human frailty that characterised the Indian bureaucracy? I felt like the earth was shifting. I took a deep breath and opened the attached pdf, preparing in my head an eloquent but crisp reasoning for how these discrepancies had occurred, what proof I could provide to show that the discrepancies weren’t discrepancies, that although I liked Season 1 of “White Collar” I’ve never considered evading income taxes, that I barely have an income, that I’m innocent, yer Honour, honest!
Then the earth stopped shifting. The fools hadn’t seen the documents I had sent them properly. I exhaled. This sounded much more like the India I know.
I called the helpline. For 5 minutes, while waiting for one of the operators to take my call, I heard about all the fantastic services you can get at the price of a single SMS. Then someone came to the phone. First thing she did was emit a noise that sounded like a burp. I refuse to consider what else it could be. Then she said, “Hello, welcome to the Income Tax Department. How can I help you?” These lines were delivered with the kind of grumpiness that would have made Oscar the Grouch want to give her a hug. I told this beacon of light, cheer and good digestion about the SMS and email I had received. “Hold the line. I will enquire.”
Ten minutes later.
“Madam, you are there?”
“I’m here, yes.”
“You have not hung up?”
“Ok, ignore email. Call after 2 days. Verification is happening. Thank you.”
And she hung up.
So the Income Tax Department sent me a threatening email, ordered me to call them only so that they could, within hours of these stern missives, tell me to ignore everything they’d sent. Only in India. God bless.