My first stage in preparing for my move was getting Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status. This status allows people of Indian origin who are citizens of other countries have a form of citizenship in India, without needing to give up their rights in their home country.
Its a great system, and one that is used by many who were born in India, have left and obtained citizenship elsewhere, but still wish to stay connected to India.
For me, I was born in Australia. My parents were born in East Africa, but my grandparents were all born in India. My eligibility for OCI was based on me being able to prove that at least one of my grandparents were eligible for Indian citizenship in 1947 (when India gained independence). As all my grandparents were born in India long before 1947, this made them eligible, and in turn me.
Unfortunately, this was not going to be as easy to prove as I would have liked. Given that documentation in India was not really very good in the late 1800’s, proving my heritage was not very easy. Unfortunately all my grandparents had passed away decades earlier (two before I was even born), finding new documentation was also difficult.
I did manage to track down some old passports, so old in fact, that they were handwritten. In very hard to read hand, they did state the place of birth of my grandparents. My cousin in England also managed to find a school certificate of my paternal grandfather, from 1918!
After much discussion and visits to the Indian visa processing centre in Melbourne, I was grateful to be told that my documentation would be sent to the Embassy for their consideration.
Weeks passed, and I heard no word from the Embassy. After a couple of months passed, I started to get anxious. I had heard nothing. Had I been rejected? Was I not good enough to be accepted to the homeland of my heritage?
I rang the processing centre (for which I paid $1 per minute to sit on hold for ages), before finally being told that I had been granted OCI status months ago, and they were waiting for me to send in my passport. When were they going to tell me that? Apparently I was supposed to know this. I am still not sure how!
Then I realised…. this was what it was like to be Indian. I was being prepared for instructions I cannot follow and bureaucracy that made no sense.
I loved it! Just another thing about India that I remembered and loved from my travels… a whole new logic that I had to learn. I can’t wait to get there and to re-train my mind to think like an Indian.