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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!!

04/04/2013

A story about ants, sinks, glues and electricians

We know that women are capable of doing several things at the same time... Useful but sometimes catastrophic – okay you do several things at the same time but do you do any well?

To cut it short, the other morning I was brushing my teeth when I saw an ant running on the wall. It had been several days that these bitches had been teasing me... And I could have considered a peaceful coexistence, but one of them happened to bite my butt while I was peeing... That was it!

So I stretched my left arm (with the end not holding the toothbrush) to smash the ant. Not only did I miss it but I knocked my bottle of perfume down and it broke the sink into pieces...india,ants,sink,electrician

Good. A nice way to start the day!

I gave in to my MacGyver instincts and bought super glue. The guy gave me a special one, waterproof. I emptied a tube on one of the pieces of ceramic. The smell was horrendous, and it did not stick! I took another tube and realized that the cap had a different colour. So I eventually read the instructions – I realise I have a problem with manuals, that's probably why I had so much trouble with mathematics, too much effort to read all the facts...To get back to my gluing exploits, I realised there was the resin and the hardener. And this isn't even gibberish to me: I have worked for two years in the epoxy business!

Iindia,ants,sink,electrician cut myself 3-4 times by trying to mend the pieces of the broken sink. I almost glued myself to the sink and I ended up really high because of the glue smell. It was time I gave up... No shame in it!

 

I am lucky enough to live in a country with so many people that there is always someone to help with anything. I considered for a while going and buying a new sink myself but I resisted the urge and called the electrician. Yes yes. This guy had the intelligence to add, after repairing my sockets, that if I needed anything, plumbing etc., I could call him. So he came home, took measurements, came back with a sink of a different colour, went to look for another one, came back with his plumber friend and I got a brand new sink installed!

 

Everything ended up well! And even better! The smell of the glue made the ants flee! Too good to be true...

03/28/2013

Ulce-RAT-ion

The other night I was deep into my new favourite activity – namely checking out rats from window – when we heard a wedding band playing from the slum. And here we were, at midnight, my friend and I, getting down to the slum to check out a wedding! I agreed to go on the one condition that if we saw a rat we would turn back. And I am not talking about mice, but these gigantic rats (called Bandicoot rats) that measure 30-40 cms with an equally long tail and weigh up to 1.5 kilos*! The only thing that equals my fascination for me is the disgust and fright they inspire… 

I even put on my rain boots (just in case) but thought they might feel insulted – a foreigner wandering at night in the slum with big blue plastic boots because she is disgusted (they wouldn't think my disgust would be of the vermine)… 

I grabbed my friends’ arm and could not look at anything but my feet – exindia,mumbai,rats,bandicoot rats,rats killerspecting one of these GMO modified animals to come out from nowhere at any point of time. My friend did not understand and thought I was scared of people! Well, if I was scared of people I would have never agreed to stroll in the narrow alleys in the dark… Coz people slice throats and rats, well, they just behave erratically. Ahem, theoretically at least. Because if you see the Pest Control Site of India, they are “large, aggressive animals that erect their guard hairs on their backs and emit grunts when disturbed. If caged with other bandicoots, it is likely to fight to death within a few hours. […] Like its smaller cousin, it is also a carrier for many diseases [including leptospirosis].” 

So no need to tell me non-senses like “it is not the small animal that will eat the big one” or “they won’t do anything to you”!!

You may have heard of these heroes, the “rat killers”? These 44 guys roam around at night, a spear in hand, to put rats on a spit… 

india,mumbai,rats,bandicoot rats,rats killersBasically each guy will catch their quota of 30 rats per night (hence in total 400 000 rats per year would die like this). And the city will pay them about 8 rupees per rat so 240 rupees (less than 4 euros) per night. The killers put the dead bodies in a bag and get them counted in the morning. Some sampling will be done and checked for diseases by a city laboratory because “Black Death or Bubonic Plague, officially declared as wiped out nearly 30 years ago by the Indian government, still poses a real threat to the country and to Bombay (Mumbai) in particular. 

Voilà! 

 

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Sources: 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/04/in_pictures_the_rat_catchers/html/9.stm 

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/article/2/20120508201205082132096260cde27f/No-more-rat-killers-please-BMC-told.html 

* PCI: http://www.pestcontrolindia.com/know-your-pest/pest/rodent-bandicoot-rat-or-largergreater-bandicoot-rat-29-0-88.aspx