I finally had that day where India nearly broke my spirit.

It’s the end of monsoon, which means the air is thick with moisture and oh so very hot. Not the kind of weather where you want to be shuffled around from one government department to another, made to wait around cramped offices or having to walk all over town.

Monsoon in Bombay

So what exactly happened?

Well I had to get a police clearance certificate, this document merely states that I don’t have any criminal record here in India. Sounds easy enough I guess. So I looked online and found the police commissioner’s website easily, filled out the relevant forms and made an online appointment to submit my documents in town at 8am. I thought it would be easier if I went in the morning and missed the rush hour. So I left home at 6.30am to make it in time for my 8am appointment.

Whilst staff were in the relevant office at 8am, I could see them through the window, no one actually started working until 8.45, so much for my 8am appointment. When I got past all the pushy men, and made it to the front of the women’s queue, the lady behind the window told me she couldn’t deal with me now because I was not an Indian citizen. As an Overseas Citizen of India, her supervisor had to deal with my application.

She told me to wait to the side for her supervisor. So I waited, and waited, and waited. After 45 minutes I went back up to the front of the window and asked her where her supervisor was.

“Oh madam he comes in at 10am, so come back then”.

Great, thanks for telling me that 45 minutes ago. So I returned at 10am and made my way back up to the front of the queue. The supervisor looked at my application and advised that he couldn’t deal with me, I would have to see the Senior Inspector. He pointed to the building next door and told me to go to the first floor.

I walked towards the building but was stopped by an armed guard.

“Chitti do” (Give a note)

So back I went to the Supervisor, stood in line again and then asked him for a note to enter the building. He refused, telling me I could have my note at 11am when the Senior Inspector arrives for work. Apparently, the more senior you are, the later you can turn up for work. So I disappeared for an hour, returning for my note. After lining up again, I was finally given a scribbled note and the guard let me into the building.

On the first floor,  I was told to sit and wait for the Senior Inspector. Finally allowed into his office, I showed him my documents and asked him to help me. He took a cursory glance at my documents and then just looked at me and told me he couldn’t help me. I belonged in the FRRO (the Foreigner Regional Registration Office). Thankfully it was in the same building. So up two more flights of stairs I went.

At the FRRO I walked up to the reception desk and explained I was OCI and asked if this was the right place. The man just pointed to the end of the long queue and told me to wait in it, so off I went. After about an hour, I finally made it to the front of the queue and found myself back in front of the same man.  I pulled out all my documents and he took one look and groaned.

“You are OCI madam, we don’t deal with OCI’s, go to that office”, as he pointed across the hall. At this point in time it took all my energy not to yell at him. Thankfully he was quite polite about it.

So off to the OCI office I went. I walked in and told them about my issue. The man there was very helpful, but he couldn’t help me either, they only accepted applications for OCI. They couldn’t actually help people who were already OCI. He suggested I speak to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, so I went to knock on her door.

Her PA was just lovely, and took her time to speak to several of the staff on the floor. Finally we found one person who sounded like he knew where I should be.

“You are in the wrong place Madam, you need to go speak to the Home Office”.  He handed me a piece of paper with their address, which was across town, and off I went again.

As I reached the building I saw a long queue out on the street. I walked up to the guards and they told me to go to the back of the queue. So in the middle of the day in 35 degree heat and 70% humidity, I stood there sweltering in the sun with about 200 other people.

After getting through some rather serious security, I finally made it to the 9th floor and found another queue. I was tired, hungry and completely deflated. I couldn’t face another queue, so I bypassed it and knocked on one of the doors I saw. A man gestured for me to come in and I explained to him what I was after. He told me I was in the right place, but I needed to fill out two different forms and take a photocopy of them and then bring them back with all my documents. I asked him whether he had a photocopier, and he just looked at me. I guess that was a no!

So I filled out the forms, went back down 9 flights of stairs, outside the complex and searched for a photocopy stand. After finally finding one, I got all my copies, and headed back up to Level 9. Once again bypassing the queue, I went back to the gentleman who had been so helpful and he went through my application, nodding as he looked at each page.

“Yes Madam all is ok”.

As I went to leave, I asked him how long it would take to get my certificate.

“Maybe one week Madam” then he paused, “Maybe four weeks”.

I was too tired, and so completely spent by this point, I couldn’t even argue or force the point. This is India after all. Everything happens in good time, you just have to adjust what is your opinion of good time and everything will be fine.

I know I will eventually receive the certificate, but when exactly that happens I have no idea! But that’s ok, this is just all part of living in my new home. Somedays India lifts you so high, and other days it just leaves you to fend for yourself. Even with all the bureaucracy, I am not going to let it break my spirit.

The Day India Nearly Broke My Spirit
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13 thoughts on “The Day India Nearly Broke My Spirit

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  • January 13, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Rakhee, I think it is important to eliminate all structural factors that may lead to such an experience before falling back to a ‘India is like this only’ hypothesis.

    India has 1,622.8 government servants for every 100,000 residents. The U.S. has 7,681. This is despite the state being a much larger component of India’s GDP and thus providing contributions such as the million plus folks who work in the Indian Railway. So there are about 5 times more government officials per capita in the developed countries in comparison to India. India had 9546 judges for a population of around a billion in the 90′s, at the same time, the US (which has a similar legal system) but a quarter of India’s population, had 28049 judges, more than three times as many. In other words, India has less than one-tenth the number of judges required to efficiently run the justice system. On the basis of police per capita, India is the second lowest among 50 countries ranked using data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime from 2010. Police forces around the world are commonly measured as the number of police per 100,000 people, and India has 129. Only Uganda fares worse.

    I am not saying that these numbers mean anyone has to put up with India, but just providing a more factual hypothesis as to why the quality of government service is so poor.

    • January 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks for your insights Vikram. Yes staffing is an issue, but there was also something about attitude that came across as well, particularly in the difference between how I was treated when going through the “local” channels compared to the “foreigner” channels.

  • October 18, 2013 at 6:40 am

    I hope I can change all this some day. Its really a sad state.

  • October 13, 2013 at 7:09 am

    Its called testing your mettle, Just don’t give up, ever 🙂

  • October 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    The minute you said “police clearance certificate”, I knew that = trouble/big fuss! My husband who is an Indian national even had huge problems obtaining it.

  • October 11, 2013 at 9:57 am

    This is the termite infestation that has been eating away our country for a long time now. I can only say “hope things go well the next time around”. I have a few tasks lined up for the coming month and I have already started dreading going there and getting it done.

    Somehow in India, wrong people get things done easily(Satyam scandal, crores of bad debt, benami fake companies….) but the legitimate ones struggle to get even the mundane things done.

    Why only Government once even the Vodafone store rejected my company HR letter coz the HR doesn’t sit at the same office as me and the company letter head had my head-office address in the letter head. And I didn’t work for any XYZ company but one of the largest IT firms in Asia. Sigh…

    • October 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      I agree with you. It is sad that the honest are punished and the guilty have smooth sailing

  • October 11, 2013 at 6:52 am

    When I hear of things like, I you tend to agree with people who hire brokers for these things. Although people say that the bureaucrats are particularly entrenched in some states. It is common practice to almost always operate through brokers.

    • October 11, 2013 at 6:54 am

      Thanks, I am learning these things slowly. I also now have a friend who has offered to come with me, he is fluent in Marathi so no doubt that would help as well.


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