Saturday, July 29, 2017

Bureaucratic Blues - The FRRO

The Foreigners Regional Registration Office

On Friday, the family and I got to spend some quality time getting to know the bureaucratic side of India.

Please know that I'm not complaining when I write this as I found the process fascinating. There was, however, a lot of sweat and patience involved.

Step 1
It all started with us standing under a green canopy for over 30 minutes. We stood in line with mostly Africans and Asians although there were the Euro/North American contingent as well. Apparently, many Africans come to New Delhi for university. Fans blew hot air at us. We sweated and sweated some more basting in our own gravy. Finally we got to the front of the line to see...

Step 2
...a man and a woman at a desk. The woman looked over all of the paperwork that the school meticulously prepared. She then passed the paperwork on to the gentleman for...

...Step 3
He wrote a few details in a large ledger with yellowed paper with crinkled edges. The book must've been 4 inches thick.  I signed my name and he gave us a little piece of paper with "60 + 3" written on it.

Step 4
We were directed to a door that led inside to air conditioning. The security guard growled at everyone else but smiled and waved us through. Yay, white privilege {sarcasm - I detest this differential behaviour even though it benefits us}!

Step 5
We went to the waiting room of a typical institutional government office. Along one wall sat 7 men, each at a computer and all wearing a long sleeved blue shirt. Two offices with glass windows were at one end and another row of people - men and women here - lined the opposite wall. Orange chairs were scattered throughout. The day before, a cockroach scampered out from under one chair as a teacher sat down on it.

They were on #37 so we had some time to...

Step 6
...visit and visit some more. The kids played on their iPods with some new friends.

Step 7
#60 came just as I was dozing in my chair. I ran up and handed our paperwork to an elderly gentleman with distinguished greying hair. He flipped quickly from one page to the next; there appeared to be no rhyme nor reason to his flipping. Plus, there was no way he had time to read anything - he just flipped quickly and randomly through our stack of papers.

Finally, he slowly wrote a paragraph in neat printing and directed me to...

Step 8
...the Signing Authority office, which was one of the glass enclosed offices on the other side of the room. There, a man read it over, wrote a line, and signed it. He directed me to...

Step 9
...booth 'B' where I said "HI, HOW ARE YOU?" as friendly as I could. I tried that friendly greeting at every step but these were government employees who sat in this fluorescent purgatory pushing the same paperwork every day. Their minds were numbed from the simplicity of their work. They never looked up nor responded other than the odd grunt. This guy looked over the paperwork and then handed it to the guy next to him who...

Step 10
...entered details in to a computer. He then said "go to counter 5" for...

...Step 11
Here, another guy at a computer tapped away for a long time. He printed 4 pages, called "Kitch" and then said "go there" pointing to...

Step 12
...the Signing Authority again for the last signature that we needed.

The Final Product
With our paperwork completed, we headed to the vans to wait for the rest of our colleagues to be pin-balled around the room.

When we travel, we need to have these documents with us at all times. And, on the plus side, we get to do this every year! :)

It was 4.5 hours all told from the time we left the school until we returned and as monotonous as the process was, I enjoyed it.
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