Moving to India. Step 8: Indian problems

27 Aug, 2008
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Working abroad has been a wish of mine for some time now. Xebia offers me the opportunity to live and work in India. Through this blog series I will keep you informed of the progress and challenges of this project.
The last days I’ve run into a lot of problems that to me are very much related to India. I try not to let them spoil my day, although I hope I can finish this story, because my battery is running low and after it goes there is not much else to do in my dark apartment…

This story starts with two SMS messages that I received on my mobile phone. Xebia India has arranged an Indian SIM card for me, which is really useful when making all sorts of arrangements with carpenters, cab drivers and colleagues. The messages stated that the phone company had been unable to verify my identity and it would restrict its services until I would present a number of documents at their office. I was a little bit worried, but after consulting with the office manager and since the phone seemed to be working fine, we decided that she would resolve this later.
The next day I was supposed to go to the Foreigners Registration Office for FRRO. Now I had planned to arrange for a cab to pick me up in the morning. At the time I tried to call however, the services had been restricted, meaning there were no services AT ALL! No worries; although I felt a little bit lonely at night in my brand new empty-and-dark apartment, I had one last option to communication: Of course I didn’t have an internet connection at my apartment, but last I started my laptop I had noticed that there was a WIFI network that was not secured. I decided that this was an emergency and that I has to try to contact somebody that could help me. I quickly booted my laptop and was chatting with a colleague…
…when the power was cut. Now my laptop kept on going, but the unsecured WIFI went down. I decided that there was nothing for me to do then wait for the power to come back. I felt a little bit annoyed, since the landlord had told me that the power seldom went. He had been right about it never going for a long time, because after approximately half an hour in the dark, the power came back and I was able to arrange for a pick up the next morning to go to FRRO.
Now the process of registering for FRRO is to me a typical Indian process. We arrived early, but there were already a bunch of people there. There was a list jotted down on a paper, that sort of indicated which people had come when and who was before who. When we added my name, a sort of queue started to be formed, but of course the order on the paper was not really observed. When somebody tried to make a point out of that, somebody else explained that he had been unaware of that list and that he should really be in that position in the queue. After that had been settled, there seemed to be a queue that everybody was happy with. I was certain that there were a few people in front of me, that had not been on the list, but I decided not to make a fuss.
Then there was the ‘afghan’ queue. Afghan nationals have to register within 24 hours of entering India, therefore there is a separate queue for them. Now when standing in the other queue, it was quite obvious to me that there were a number of people in that queue that were not of Afghan origin. Mostly because they where white and spoke French or English without any accent, but also because some people behind me decided to get in the other line which was a lot shorter. When I was finally allowed in the office, I noticed that inside they had been able to make the difference and were not in the Afghan section of the registration office, but well before me in the normal queue.
I decided to be patient. The queue was making a big loop through the whole office and there were at least 50 people before me. I had been in the queue outside for more than an hour now, so you could say that I was experienced. On this queue however, you could see the progress, since the end of the queue was behind the counter that handled the front of the queue, since it was curling around it. Unfortunately there were only 2 people behind the counter of which only one seemed to be handling the 50 people between me and that same counter.
After waiting for another hour, I was finally at the counter. I handed the lady the big heap of papers that we had prepared for this registration. There were all sorts of documents, including copies of the lease agreement for my apartment, the employment contract and my passport and visa. She went through the documents and after some studying pointed to one of the letters and said it was wrong. She went through the heap of papers that were lying around here and found a piece of paper with the correct wording for the letter. I asked her twice whether she was certain that it was not correct, but she was sure. She gave me a counter number for the next queue (this first queue was only the beginning of the process), but first I had to get a new letter that contained the correct wording. I quickly went out of the office, to consult with our accountant, which had accompanied me but was not allowed in the office. We noticed that the same phrase was in the letter that we had brought, but the wording was slightly different. I went back in and after pointing this out to the lady at the counter (I was generously given some space by some of the people who had been behind me for the last few hours) she let me pass through… to the next queue.
Now this is where the real drama starts for most people, because this is where your papers are really checked. Some people try to jump the first long queue, since they have been in it yesterday, because they didn’t notice it at first or simply because they want to try to be smarter than the other guy. They are ruthlessly send away by the lady behind the counter. Some other people find that the electricity bill is not enough proof of residence or that registration cannot be done on an expired visa. Luckily for me all the papers were in order. We just had to pay a little fine for being late in registering and we were done.
Just like yesterday the power has been restored after half an hour of blackness and I’m able to finish this blog in a cool and lit bedroom. I think I will take the inverter that the landlord keeps telling me about that will allow the lights and the fans to stay on during a short power breakdown…
I have a few days left to try and do some more furnishing and learning Hindi, before I leave for the Netherlands to start packing for the big shift on October 1st.


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