A pilgrimage to the God FRRO (God of visas)
The other day I went on my yearly pilgrimage to the (now famous) Foreign Registration Office (FRRO for the inner circle).
So here I drove, all the way from Khar to CST (also known as Victoria Station), near the Police Commissioner Office and Crawford market.
I thought I had become an expert – it was my fourth renewal of my employment visa mind you – and got a bit overconfident. As a result, I had missed one paper, a new one, some form you have to fill online, and get an appointment. I had checked the website but never found the right page so I didn’t put any fight and left.
Thinking I still stood a chance to get an appointment the same day (it was not even 11 AM), I went roaming around in Crawford Market in look for an internet café. Walking 30 minutes in the chaos of this market and under 35 degrees was a baaaaad idea… And since I am still shy, it took me a long time to gather the courage to ask someone. But it’s good I did it coz the guy was used to the visa applications (since he owns the closest internet place to the FRRO) and found the form for me!! To be downloaded here for these who need…
A computer like you don't see them anymore, worth struggling to find an Intern café!
So I went back to work, slaloming between taxis, carts, people, bikes and god knows what. You name it and it is there in the streets of Mumbai… Driving and texting is not even an option here as you would kill someone within five minutes!
The next day I went back. Counter 12, ticket 3. I sat, expecting someone to come and call. I did some work on my phone and decided to go inspecting the office. Good I did so… There were only 8 counters… I asked the lady who collects payments and found out that they have converted the old computer section into more counters. And my counter was free, I could have waited long like that… Sunita (the officer in charge of counter 12) was simply sitting and chatting with an African lady! But well…
She started dealing with my case. Now I have to say the FRRO has come a long way… From completely manual 5 years ago to completely computerised. Quite impressive.
She sent me out for 3 hours, the time to prepare the visa. I decided to walk a bit, up to Pain Quotidien in Colaba. Doing so, I got lost – but google map was there on my Blackberry! And anyway it gave me the chance to discover new things, like Starbuck (okay okay when you come to India you despise Starbuck and prefer the local chai stand in the street, but hey, a good coffee in a nice place (this one is quite stylish by the way), when you have walked 30 minutes in the Mumbai madness, it is something of a blessing! – my personal opinion).
Kala Ghoda Starbuck
Full of Starbuck frapuccino and Pain Quotidien tartine, I walked back to the FRRO and what a walk. I had to stop every five minutes to take pictures of amazing stuff happening (pics to come in the coming days). And listening to this music:
And my visa (last and final, though not mentioned on the paper) was ready! Since I have used this visa for 5 years (with four renewals), I have to go back to France to get a new employment visa next year!!