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Stories about driving licenses, and cops

What a joke! 

I have been driving for a year now in India... 


I had tried to get a driving license in Delhi but since all my documents were registered in Mumbai (including my residence permit), I had to give up (but not without spending half-a-day in the Kafkaesque labyrinth of the Delhi RTO...). 


I tried again in Mumbai. I first found the driving school and I gave them my papers: passport and visa, French driving license, residence permit, renting agreement and invoice. Obviously there was a snag because since I had moved in for less than a month I did not have any invoice... But I kept my cool, Indian style, I left my papers and came back a month and a half later with an invoice! And 3,500 rupees (about 60 euros). 


Then all it took was to harass the driving school so that they would take me to the RTO. Which was kinda of a empty hangar, two desks, four chairs, two antique computers and two people who take your photo and your fingerprints. Surreal. But in 30 minutes it was done.  

I was not convinced when the driving school guy told that I would receive the license by mail – because I'm never home during the day – but it was useless to put up a fight, there was no other option. I told myself that I would go and sit and wait in the Post office after a month if I had not received anything and that would be about it! 


Three weeks later, by a beautiful Tuesday, my friends received the famous license at home! See, there was nothing to get excited about... 

The following Saturday we went out for a drive to try out the much awaited license. 


Since I have started driving I never had a problem: I adopted the local style of driving so I am difficult to spot ;)  

I got stopped only twice (and only in Delhi). The first time: the cop got excited because I was talking on the phone on bluetooth. I told him that no, I was singing, and when he wanted to take my cell I just left. I think he was just curious to see a foreigner driving and looked for an excuse to stop me and talk to me... 


The second time, I don’t really know how but I managed to get stuindia,mumbai,delhi,driving,driving license,rto,driving styleck in the middle of a huge crossroads going on the opposite way I should have. A little stuck by panic and by all the cars that were coming on me on I stayed still. And when I saw a policeman who was waiving at me from the other side, I took him as a target and drove slowly slowly towards him. When I reached him, I lowered my window, gave him a sweet look, said « sollllly » and continued driving. Here we go, you have not seen me! 


Here we are, back in Mumbai. I was driving, happy to have escaped the cops who stopped the vehicles for speed excess on the Sea Link. When I reached the end of the bridge I saw a red light. Which seems to be of no use. So here I was, wondering whether it was really worth it to stop when my right neighbour just went through! Obviously I followed him... And obviously I got arrested. 


I was almost happy to hand my brand new license! Except that the cop told me the procedure was to keep my license at the Worli police station and that I should go there and get it later. 

So I lost it: no freakin way! C'mon give me back my license right away. We can’t even see your signal. And why didn’t you stop the other car? I want my license immediatelyyyyyy! 


100 rupees (€1.5) later (quite cheap considering all the signals I have missed...), a receipt in hand (yes I did not bribe the police officer) and my license in the pocket we left for other adventures... 


Interview for ExpatBlog

My (French) blog was elected blog of the month on ExpatBlog. Thank you!!india,interview,expatriation,expatblog

Below is the translation of the interview I did for them...


"I am 30 years old and originally from Paris. 


How did you get the idea of settling in India? 

At the end of my studies (business school), I went travelling in South America and decided to go work there. I looked for a job but couldn’t find any. And then I got an opportunity in India and since I had nothing else, I thought why not... 


Since how long have you been there? Is this the first time that you live far away from home? 

I have been in India for more than 6 years. 

I left home when I was 20 to go study in Reims then went for Erasmus in Spain. 


How did you settle down? 

All went well. I didn't have any expectation regarding India since I had not planned to go there. I was a bit lost at the beginning: I had no clue about what was happening (because of the language, and the fact that in India everything always happens at the last minute so the plans keep on changing). 


Are Indians friendly? 

It is the least we can say! 


What surprised you the most in Mumbai / in India? 

The mess (or to be more politically correct the anarchy ;) ). A lot of stuff is happening everywhere all the time, passing vehicles going in all directions, people who squizzent queues, stalls everywhere. It gives an impression of organized brothel (or not). 


What are the most striking differences with France, your country of origin? 

The concept of efficiency – Indians work somehow more slowly, don’t mind spending extra time in the AC in the office, are less organized. 

The logic: the French logic is Cartesian. I cannot describe the Indian logic –they do have one! – but it is different. 


Is there anything that you have been missing since you have moved to Mumbai? 

I overcame the craving for beef and cheese and some other products (which can be found but it is not easy easy). So in terms of food I’m good. 

I go back to France 3-4 times a year so I also manage being far with my family and friends. 

What I really miss is silence (or the absence of noise)… 


The life of an expat in Mumbai, what does it look like? 

It looks like a lot of work! 

My typical day looks like a 20 minutes rickshaw ride through a slum and then I go from one meeting to another. One butter chicken and a naan ordered for lunch at the office. I drink a Coke on the office terrace when I need a break (with sea view). I work up to 8 PM then I go for happy hour on the terrace of the Novotel with a colleague (sea view again). 

And Sundays at the pool or at the spa. 

That is when I'm not on a business trip or roaming around the India for fun! 


What made you feel like writing this blog? 

I often say that I started to write for my family and friends (the day I landed) and I soon realized that many people but my family and friends were reading it! So I continued. 

Actually I think that I write it for myself. 


Have you ever met anybody thanks to your blog? 

Many actually! Physically and by mail. 

I get a lot of emails for travel tips, installation, job offers and even translations of French proverb to Hindi... 


What advice would you give to those who would like to go live in Mumbai / in India? 

Be patient... There is a saying that says that in India if you have patience you will lose it and if you are not patient you will become. In fact it’s like a vicious circle... India is a place that you discover, uncover, bit by bit every day. You have to let it come to you, to stop trying to understand, analyse, everything. And the most frustrating is that when you start feeling you comfortable, you can't explain why!



Hunting for Nutella in Kolkata...

The first thing we did when arriving in Kolkata was to jump into a taxi and go eat rolls (the paratha roll with chicken and eggs is a local speciality) at Zeeshan at Park Circus. 

This is how we got to think of a Nutella paratha roll... An idea that wouldn’t just pass!! 

We therefore started our way back to the hotel walking and hunting for Nutella. 


The guy from the first stall had some! But when he asked me if I wanted india,kolkata,nutella,roll,zeeshanit in seeds or powder, I got confused... Indeed, he wanted to sell me some Nutrela (some kind of soya derivative)! 


The guy from the second shop had some Ferrero rochers and Kinder buenos. I could bet everything on him!  

Since he didn’t understand Nutella, I tried "chocolate paste" and his face lit up! And he handed over a tube of Colgate... (from paste he had come up with tooth paste!).


The guys from the third, fourth and fifth stalls did not have Nutella nor knew what it was, even in the touristic neighborhood. We therefore concluded that Nutella had not yet reached Kolkata – whether it is a good or a bad thing is not the question...  


So we thought of buying some chocolate and wondered how it would melt. And then we looked at each other, soaked with sweat and it hit us!! Two minutes in the ambient heat of the night and we had a chocolate spread!