Friday, June 19, 2009

Delhi and the FRRO

I flew back to Delhi earlier this month to see friends and colleagues and to extend my Indian research visa for about 6 weeks until the end of my grant date (Aug 3rd). Always an intense experience of standing in long lines and being told you have the wrong paper work, the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) could very well be bureaucracy hell on earth or heaven if you like bureaucracy.

I went to the FRRO with another Fulbrighter, Claire, who also had to renew her visa. When going to the FRRO, two is always better then one. After waiting inline for about 2.5 hours the doors to the FRRO were open and we were allowed inside. The first line was to collect our visa extention forms, clare got hers but I was denied one because my proof of Indian address was not sufficent. I was told I would have to go back to the Fulbright office to get a better letter. I showed him lots of paper work about my residency but it was of no use. So I went to the women "in charge" literally there is a sign over her desk that says "in charge." I asked her about what was wrong with my current paperwork and what I needed to be changed. She looked at everything and told me that I needed a more specific letter of residency from the Fulbright and that I was at the wrong place anyway because Fulbright researchers were suppose to extend their visa's at the Department of Home Affairs. This was news to me, and to Claire. We were told to sit a wait a bit, as the woman in charge contacted the Department of Home Affairs, which was not picking up the phone. So we waited... in the mean time I tried to deal with the residency documents and called the Fulbright office who asked for a fax number and faxed a new letter with the currect info. I then showed it to the man behind the forms counter and he nodded and gave me the form (yeah!). 5 minutes later the power went out, and no more fax machine, so that was very lucky. And we continued waiting... So Claire called the Fulbright office to ask about this whole Department of Home Affairs deal, they said that was not true, we needed to extend our visas at the FRRO and told us to put them on the phone with the woman in charge. So we did, and we don't know what was said but then the woman in charge waved us through to the next line where they stamp your visa etc. While there we waited while the power went out again and computers were rebooted. Then a light had to be changed over the desk of the man entering our visa extentions into the computer, so we had to wait as a maintenance man stood on the desk and put in a new light. While we waited the man stamping our visas discovered our knowledge of Hindi and told us about the crazy Taliban (Afghans) in the line next to us and why he liked America for fighting them and thought we should study politics. We just said yes and agreed with everything he said, since he was holding our passports. Finally after being assigned a visa extention number and getting our passports and residency booklets stamped, the man turned to another behind the desk and asked how much a research visa extention is. The man replayed 3500 rupees but you can always charge more. To which Claire replied its 3500 isnt it (in Hindi). Then we went back the the woman in charge who crossed out the 3500 written on our forms and wrote 3720 and told us to go the the "cash counter" to pay. Which we did, then back to her where she took our paperwork and signed over the new stamps in our passports and residency booklets. We were done, 6 hours later. Hugging and cheering insued.

Next: I attened a wedding in Kanpur a small city in Uttar Pradesh with my friend Priya and her family.

No comments: