Now that we had reinforcements helping in out struggle against the bureaucrats it looked like the tide was turning and we were on the road to victory. Only a few minor details to take care of and the papers would be signed.
One of these details was to prove my residency at Vasant Vihar Towers, apartment J1103. In order to confirm that, an FRO employee would need to visit and see me open the door. So yesterday morning I got a call from Sid and was effectively put on house arrest, since they might turn up during that day. No problem, I could sit and wait in the apartment for the guys, and work while I do so. Several hours go by and nothing happens, but finally at five in the afternoon they show up, for a three minute visit, just to see the bunker in all it’s frugal glory.
With that out of the way, we just needed to go to the FRO and finalize everything. Today was the big day, the coup de grâce to the stamp wielding monster. Just a matter of showing up and getting the paper, right?
We show up at 10:30 and I’m to meet with a police inspector at the Prosecution and Vigilance Cell. It’s unclear to me what the purpose of the interview was, but before being sent in Sid told me to keep my tongue in check and not be too clever. No worries, the inspector had only a few questions about my occupation and Sid’s role in the company – nothing I can put my foot in my mouth with. Everything seemed ok.
Then my file was handed over to the senior police inspector, who promptly proceeded to blow a gasket.
You see, foreigners have for some strange reason the tendency to not register at the FRO at all. I have no clue why that is; it’s such a smooth, effortless process – why in the world would anyone choose not to? And it bugs the inspectors that they never get to prosecute those culprits. So now that they have a guy who’s been trying to register for the last four months, and is almost in the clear, what’s the most logical thing to do? Take him to court for being late!
So next thing I know they’re saying I might be prosecuted for visa violation. That means a court date, possible fines and even jail time. One can question how serious they were, but still it was beginning to form into a sticky situation. Also, Sid pointed out that if I get called to another interview in the coming week or two I should be available for that. This would put the East India Express trip at risk. That’s where I drew the line: I told Sid that regardless of what they’re going to throw at me, I’m not going to cancel that trip. I had a friend coming over from Finland, and no way in hell was I going to call it off for this red tape circus of powertripping, bribe-hungry clowns.
What followed was a few hours of waiting. I don’t know if the senior inspector was actively pondering on the case or doing something else. At some point he left for lunch.
Some time later Alok pulls through and says we might be able to skip this guy and go above him – directly to the top. That’s right, we were aiming to meet the kingpin himself: the FRO manager. Some smooth talking with one of the clerks and next thing we know we’re standing outside his office, waiting for an audience. We get to go in. Time to look sharp.
He had a nice looking office, spacious. Dark wood. Polished, clean surfaces. Lots of paperwork on this desk. Notes laid up in an organized fashion. He was in his 50’s, slightly grey hair on the sides. Sharp features. He didn’t look particularly intimidating, but he had an aura of a different type of bureaucrat than any of the other ones: he was serious about his work and didn’t have time to mess around.
He glanced through my file and addressed Sid directly, speaking in hindi. From what little I could understand of the conversation, he questioned how it was possible that it had taken four months to get the full application submitted. He also pointed out that I was not the only one who could be prosecuted – Sid could as well. A lengthy monologue later, it seems we were done and should exit. He looked squarely at me, and I thanked him for his time.
Turns out he agreed to sign the papers, making my registration official and therefore eliminating the risk of prosecution. It would take a few more hours, but that was it. We had to leave since we had other business to attend to, but Alok would remain and keep us posted.
Triumphantly we exited the FRO, hopeful over that it is for the last time.
Later today, we got a call from Alok. He had received the signed registration. It was now official; 133 days after arriving, I was now a registered resident in India – 119 days overdue.
Oh, and that final signature cost us 5000 rupees. Some expensive ink in the manager’s pen, it seems. Funny.