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01/23/2017

The OCI (of the spouse of an Indian) for dummies

After ten years of adventures visa-related, the time to end this story of annual meetings, endless trips, rule changes, frustration, had finally come. In short, I completed in August two years of marriage, which gave me the right to apply to become an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI), some kind of lifelong visa allowing me to live and work in India. Lifelong if you please! Well, at least as long as my marriage stands. Because it is the fact that I am married to an Indian person that gave (earned??!) me the right to this illustrious honor.

To put it simply, after two years of marriage, I could finally apply for an OCI. You know me, I was well ready on the D-Day – i.e. the day of my anniversary. But I had to wait till I had a few hours free in my calendar to go to the Foreign Registration Office in Delhi six days later. With the following papers (mentioned in this document / more information on the official website, where we also need to apply and upload documents):

  1. My passport (with my current visa and my registration to the FRRO) / also to be uploaded on the site
  2. My husband's passport / also to be uploaded on the site
  3. Our marriage certificate / also to be uploaded on the site
  4. A photo of myself and one of my signature / also to be uploaded on the site
  5. Our lease (not mentioned, but just in case, and it proved required)
  6. An 'indemnity bond' certified by a notary with a 100-rupee stamp (also not mentioned but I had often heard about it, so just in case, and by the way they kept it) / see an example of this document here
  7. A DD (Demand Draft) of 15,000 rupees to be drawn at 'Pay and Accounts Officer (Secretariat), Ministry of Home Affairs' payable at New Delhi
  8. The print-out of the form we have to fill up online

I will not spend time on how the office made fun of me when he checked my marriage date and my filing date – ‘you are not wasting time’! I’m not THAT eager to get the OCI, you see, it’s not the Holy Grail or anything, but I have heard that it takes more than three months and my visa expires in five and frankly if I could avoid going back to the Gurgaon FRRO...

When he was done laughing, he, in all seriousness, informed be about a (not so) funny rule: one must have lived for more than eight months in a city to apply (not six or twelve, no, eight). Obviously, this is mentioned nowhere on the site and obviously, I am far from it, having three months to complete. 24 months that I have been waiting and this jocker comes up with this crazy rule! I could cry. Maybe that’s why, seeing my face – or maybe I got a bit upset and yelling and shouting, I can’t remember – the officer accepted my file not without warning me “if it is rejected it won't be my fault”.

I then had to upload the passport of my husband under the ‘Proof of Indian Citizenship’. And finally I leave with a file number in my pocket!

But it would have been too easy wouldn’t it?

Two weeks later I get an email asking me to resubmit my marriage certificate. And when I comply, they explain to me that the words ‘marriage certificate registered under Special Marriage Act, 1954’ are missing on my certificate made in Mumbai. And then, the fun part begins.

a. We go to the Marriage Court of Gurgaon to register our marriage again. It’s illegal.

b. We try to find an agent who could get our certificate modified in Mumbai. The Bandra court replies that it is the standard certificate there and they won't change it. But maybe we can have them sign an affidavit. Except that the guy who married us has just be transferred and his replacement is on leave. And on that the agent stops picking up the phone.

c. We are still left with the option to re-register our marriage by getting married again, as per lawyers’ advice. But not in Gurgaon because the system has changed and one can no longer corrupt them. No, we would have to go to Ghaziabad and go take pictures at the temple and pay 15 000 rupees. I would do it for the experience you can imagine, except that it seemed a little too crazy... And I could really picture the scene where my marriage would be registered in 2016 and not in 2014 and I would have to wait another two years to apply (even though I was assured that antedating the document would not be a problem).

d. In despair, I thought I would send my favorite Indian plead our case in Mumbai.

e. And then finally, after three months of efforts and stress, I gave up. They can go to hell with their OCI...

India,OCI,FRRO,Foreign registration office,visaTwo days later, I'm not lying, I received a message stating that my application was approved and I had to send a new DD (the former having expired). I could not believe it. But the next day an officer showed up at my place – a normal procedure where they check that I live here where I say I live. And three days later I was officially an (Overseas) Indian Citizen!

12/12/2016

Trekking in Nepal in August - Chapter 5, Photos

India,Nepal,trekking,August,monsoon,rains,Annapurna trail

12/05/2016

Trekking in Nepal in August - Chapter 4, Annapurna Trek in August

And here we are, a week later, in Kathmandu, in the (slightly ugly) premises of the travel agent, who gives us details on this trek “fairly easy” trek. The first day will be “a little hard”: “after four hours of walking, you will have to climb 2 000 steps. But the hardest part will be the third day, because of the altitude and the up-and-down type of walk. Oh and by the way, do you all have hiking shoes?” Of course not, my father, self-proclaimed expert es-hiking had claimed that trek sandals were good for any kind of path, and they were very handy during the rain. Quite accurate in theory, but it did not take into account a non-negligible parameter: leeches! And the very slippery state of the ground. You should have seen everyone’s face: flabbergasted! And I began to wonder what on earth had pushed me to lead everybody in this ‘adventure’...

After a night in the capital in a hotel full of charm, despite the insistence of the owner that we recommend his property on Tripadvisor, we took the road to the airport and after a 30-minute flight we were in Pokhara, the second city of the country.

We spent the night on a hill, in a basic guest-house very welcoming, despite the insistence of the owner that we recommend his property on Tripadvisor. There was a great view of the Lake and the chain of the Annapurnas in the background. Unfortunately, because of the fog we couldnt see a thing... And it took less than half an hour of walking in the rain (a training before the D-day, and the opportunity to see a stupa), for the soles of the (very fake) hiking shoes bought from a friend of the guesthouse owner’s to come off... This trek was promising to be full of surprises!

We finally got started on the trek. And here let me tell you, “fairly easy” in Nepali English translates in “rather difficult” in normal English (especially if one has weak knees and the other one a baby in the making).

The 2 000 steps were bit was a joke. In fact 80% of the entire path were made of steps! And you go up and down and you slide! And up and down and you slide!

What about the rain? Well you do get at least two hours of heavy rain every day. You may want to avoid the umbrella ‘I love Berlin’(a souvenir): it is not waterproof on the long term. Not more than the Petit Bateau raincoat by the way. Other than that, walking under the rain is not so bad, it even adds a certain charm!

We had also been cautioned against the cold but we did not experience it, just needing a sweater from time to time. But also we did not climb any summit nor did we cross the altitude of 3 200 meters. We rather got very hot when it wasn’t raining. And what humidity! How much you sweat! Actually, whether you are under the rain or the sun, you end up equally wet there...

As for leeches, one should know, there are everywhere. Nothing too bad but for a city dweller, it may be surprising...

The tea guest-houses are okay, you don’t need to bring a sleeping bag, just maybe a bedsheet. And it is really appreciable to not sleep in a tent in this season! Just dont expect more than vaguely lukewarm showers.

And the mountains? Well we didn’t seem them very often... The fog was there most of the time. That said it makes the view of the Annapurna and its neighbouring peaks when it emerges quite exceptional!

You don’t really need a guide. The presence of an alcoholic puffy Nepalese with no intent to give explanations and a very limited vocabulary can even be irritating. But it is also reassuring in a way. Hire a porter it's nice, and it creates jobs. It also allows you to carry enough dry t-shirts. The Agency had certified to me there would be a porter to help carry the babies but its weight calculations will remain a mystery: six adults with 20 kilos each, and three porters carrying each 20 kilos plus their own stuff, who was left to carry the 12 kilo babies? The great husbands! In fact twenty kilos were divided between two porters and my brothers and the husbands got a little help...

As for my Baby Samurai, he loved it! He saw lots of animals, which was fortunate as he was in his period ‘sounds of the farm’. He also liked to share our food (even if he lost weight) and sleep between his two parents and jump on the shoulders of his ‘mamus’ (uncles in Mauritius slang). He stayed quietly in his carrier 6 hours per day hardly complaining – but when he did it was quite painful!

The flight? Since we were going from the first to the second biggest city of the country, I figured that we wouldn't have 6 seaters and indeed our Buddha airline planes carried about 60 passengers. No turbulence, it was quite a pleasant 30-minute ride. Blessed be the Nepalese who took pity on Baby Samurai and gave us their hand-fan as it was super hot...

And as for my pregnant friend, she did well! In silence most of the time, because she needed a lot of energy to put one foot in front of the other. And apart from a somewhat painful morning where she felt like vomiting, nausea left her alone! The hardest part was almost for her to take care, in the evening, of her toddler full of energy after staying without moving all day... And when a mother can barely keep her eyes open, it’s not easy to manage! Because she needs them open, her eyes, to avoid spectacular falls and other mishaps.

In short, it was not easy-easy but very nice, and quite unique. The BIG advantage of trekking in this season is that not many people go. From the number of guest-houses we saw, we can easily guess that in the high season the trek must be packed with people.