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04/06/2013

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…

 

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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).

 

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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!!

03/24/2013

Tell me how you drive I'll tell you who you are...

Being stuck in traffic in India leaves you a lot of time to think… So the other day I was wondering whether they could be a link with the way people drive and who they are.  

Of course it would involve a lot of clichés but the idea is not entirely stupid, in my opinion.

 

India,driving,driving style,French,UK,Germans,joke

Udaipur

 Nooo! I wouldn’t dare to say that just because Indians drive crazy that they are all crazy don’t get me wrong ;) Though...

 

But no, I was rather thinking that the only driving rule in India “always look in front. Not on the sides. Never backward” also applies to the way they drive their lives. Always looking forward rather than dwelling upon the past. It is probably partly linked to India economic development where everything (almost) is yet to be done. But I think it is also in Indians’ nature, “not thinking too much (at least this is the impression they give), future-oriented, enjoying simple moments (you should see our executives starting dancing the moment you play music in a seminar)” kind of nature. 

 

To go back to the Indian driving style, it is every man for himself. There is no conception of “collective well-being”, of “if I let this person go first then I won’t block the whole street for one hour”. Same thing when it comes to queuing. Indians do not wait in lines. I think it is because they don’t really care about others; they only matters. Are they individualistic? I believe they are (except when it comes to family) – and who can blame them? With a population of 1.2 billion, you have to fend for yourself!

 

Now you will tell me, who are you to criticise? Aren’t you French? Ah the French… Possibly the worst drivers in the world (or at least in Europe, let us be fair). I loved that website that described us as “impatient, intolerant and even aggressive maniacs with an unshakeable conviction in our own immortality [and having] little respect for traffic rules, particularly anything to do with parking (in Paris, a car is a device used to create parking spaces)” – the rest is even better, I let you read… So this is how we drive, and a bit how we are also no? Complaining a lot, impatient, undisciplined…

 

Follow me in Germany with this blog. At a signal. “To dare challenge [the red man’s] authority and step gingerly out into a completely empty road when he is still red, is to take great personal risk. Not of getting run over, the road is completely empty after all. Bar being struck by an invisible car, you’re safe. No, what you really risk is the scorn, the tutting and the shouts of “Halt!” from nearby Germans. Who will now consider you an irresponsible, possibly suicidal, social renegade.” Wouldn’t that vouch for the stereotype that Germans are very disciplined and love to follow the rules?

 

The Britishers drive rather carefully… To the point that they themselves are more frustrated by slow drivers than over speeding ones! An illustration of the British phlegm and legendary politeness?* 

 

Maybe I got it all wrong but I had good fun writing that post!

 

To conclude on a funny note, see this joke on driving styles in the world:

 

“One hand on steering wheel, one hand out of window. Sydney 

One hand on steering wheel, one hand on horn. Japan
One hand on steering wheel, one hand on newspaper, foot solidly on accelerator. Boston
Both hands on steering wheel, eyes shut, both feet on brake, quivering in terror. New York 
Both hands in air, gesturing, both feet on accelerator, head turned to talk to someone in back seat. Italy      

One hand on horn,             
one hand greeting,             
one ear on cell phone,      
one ear listening to loud music,      
foot on accelerator,            
eyes on female pedestrians,           
conversation with someone in next car.        

Welcome to India!!”

Sources:

Living in France: http://www.justlanded.com/english/France/Articles/Travel-Leisure/French-Drivers 

Living in Germany: http://venturevillage.eu/how-to-be-german-part-1 

* Living in the UK: http://www.thecheers.org/Entertainment/article_2222_English-Politeness-and-Manners.html ; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/8649662/Slow-drivers-cause-the-most-frustration.html 

Joke: http://www.asianjoke.com/general/driving_styles_around_the_world.htm

 

03/04/2013

Welcome in Khar, Mumbai

I managed to find a place a few days before flying back to Mumbai for good and after coming back, I quickly settled in. As you cannot have it all, I have an incredible view of the sea and the slums, a great ventilation in the apartment and no vis-a- vis. But I also have smells of fish drying coming from the adjacent fishing village (though to be honest it is not worse than anywhere else in Mumbai - see my post) and the noise of the rickhsaws that rattle all day long and the bells of temples of Hanuman that ring here and then. Incredible but true I have quite accommodated to the noise and smells. I just need to have a look through the window and be okay with everything...

 

I can even walk through the slum, reach the beach and walk up to my office – but only at low tide! 

 

I just hope that the day where I will smell of dried fish someone will have the kindness to let me know... 

 

I have Indian friends who are not so enthusiastic about my neighbourhood, to say the least. But I love the “popular” side of it, somewhere between a fishing village and a slum. There is not a day when nothing happens. Not need of TV, there is always something happening down the window. 

 

The French bourgeois girl of a Paris fancy neighbourhood that watching Indians going to the public urinal at the bottom of her building makes ecstatic...!

 

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inde,mumbai,khar,appartement,vue,mer,poisson

inde,mumbai,khar,appartement,vue,mer,poisson

inde,mumbai,khar,appartement,vue,mer,poisson