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The Cycle-rickshaw of Paperwork for the FRRO or Painfully Becoming a Registered Foreigner

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It must be done, there is no choice, forms to fill, letters to print in triplicate only never used, everything including the kitchen sink’s details, signed, copied and reprinted. On-line form filled and printed, appointment given for 10.00am, arrive at correct time but appointments don’t exist, join the queue like everyone else. Identity photos to be stuck to every form. But where are the photos…missing from the bag, a rush out to a street vendor to have more photos taken by a ten year old boy and overcharged as they know it is urgent. The waiting at the government office, the FRRO, for ever and a day, The Foreigner Regional Registration Office. Shoulder to shoulder with Afghanis, Finnish, Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Tibetans, Africans from all countries, old hippies, young travellers, families, rich and poor, all waiting in line to present their forms. Everyone hopeful and hopeless too, will more paperwork be requested, will requests be granted, will it be done today, which counter do I stand at, which numbered queue is being called now. Beginning outside the office, a dirty, well- handled piece of paper to write names against numbers, waiting to be called out and given a torn scrap of paper with a number on to pass security to enter the office. Its chaos outside, a mellee of confused, bemused and desperate faces. Inside a concentrated, copy of the outside, noisy, hot, smelly, cramped, sweaty, confusing with many queues and counters and no instructions. Asking advice of an official, meets with derision and shouts to sit down and wait in turn, but when is the turn and for what is the turn for, should it be this queue or that queue, is time wasted when the proper action might be to just go to another counter. Number 44 is written on the scrap of paper, a stern official is calling out number 5, ten minutes later, number 6, another ten minutes, ‘Up to number 10’ is called. Oh… this is going to be long wait. Slowly the time sits like a rock in a stream, it will move but not if watched, only if ignored and looked at later. An hour slips by, number 40…41…42…43…stand up, ready for action, paperwork clutched, approach the gruff official, ignored, papers snatched, looked through, another number written on the form and a board of numbered lights pointed too, papers pushed back without a word. Oh…this IS going to be a long, long wait. In the hour waiting to be called up to the first desk the number board has moved from 16 to 20, a look at the number written on the from – 78! Sit in cramped seats, never enough leg room for people to squeeze by, watch the numbers flick painfully slowly onwards, half an hour they don’t change. Number 35 is reached when lunch time is called and all officials leave their posts and disappear. The cramped office thins a little, screaming babies are taken outside, shouting ceases for an hour, then as though a DVD on pause is started again, officials arrive back and mayhem begins again. Four and a half hours ooze past…72, 73, 74…75…76…77…stand, squeeze through the seated crowd, ready…78 to counter three. Ignored for five minutes by the stern, officious lady, papers snatched and looked through in detail…will they all be in order, nothing missing…they have been checked against the check-list countless times, they are all there but will fault be found? ‘You need a letter of request…Where is you letter of request?’ But what is a letter of request? ‘A letter asking that you be registered!’ Why do you think I have been here for 5 hours, for the flipping novelty of it? ‘You have to come back tomorrow with the right letters and forms and start again’ NOOOOOOOOOO! Right, use you best acting skills…drop head onto counter, moan a little, raise head and pleading face to over-officious lady, best begging voice…it does the trick. She smiles a little wry, sarcastic hint to it. Spoken to like a school boy in the heads office. ‘There is another way this can be done, if you promise to return within a week with the missing letter, I will grant you the Registered Foreigner certificate. No need to queue, just walk in and give it straight to me’. Result. Forms ticked and signed, another counter to go to, a bemused official as to what a request letter is but certificate is printed and handed over, the ‘In-charge’ desk is pointed too, the director has to put his signature to the certificate. The top man is also bemused as to what a request letter is, says its not needed but as its been asked for it has to be produced…then signs the certificate anyway. But where do you pay? Laughed at but this is light relief, this cost nothing, no charge for the certificate. So the check-list, the appointment and the costs stated on the website are all false and ignored by the office producing it. Smiling, clutching the Registered Foreigner Certificate, five and a half hours after entering back outside and homewards, hoping it will be easy returning with the requested request letter requesting to be registered even though already registered. A throw-back to colonial times when bureaucracy was taught by the British, now mastered by a modern India…in triplicate.

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One response to “The Cycle-rickshaw of Paperwork for the FRRO or Painfully Becoming a Registered Foreigner

  1. Annette Hickey ⋅

    Perseverance (and patience) pays off! Goodness Gracious Meeeeeee! Xxxx

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