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02/06/2017

On the road... (from Jim Corbett to Delhi)

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Sun rise on Jim Corbett National Park

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At the pee break

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On the road...

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A dome of trash (or rather a mountain, litterally, with 50 feet altitude) - Ghazipur

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Another kind of dome (less trashy)

01/30/2017

Incredible Iceland!

For the year-end holidays, my family and I flew to an exotic (but not paradisiac) destination, chosen with care to be nothing like India. Here you go: Iceland! A country where it is good to breathe pure air. Or so I thought.

Upon arrival at our hotel we were engulfed in a poignant smell of fish which was not unlike what I could get in Khar, an area of Mumbai (with its fishing villages where they put up fish for drying) at its most fragrant hours. Consternation. None of us dared suggest to change the hotel – anyway all (absolutely all) the hotels are full in this season – and it was a good call because it was actually a unique day, the day before Christmas Eve, the only day of the year where Icelanders prepare a particularly tasty delicacy: fermented ray!

A few days later, our guide joined us at the hotel in the morning, with an empty tank. Indian ,get out of this body! Because it is something that drivers love here: put gas at the last minute! But this guy was even better: despite a 12-hour storm, he had not put the right tires and of course, we got stuck in the snow.

We met few Icelandic people (I must say that they are not many of them, with only 320 000 souls) but what I was told and what I could read about them really made me smile: completely family oriented (in the (very) broad sense of the term), a homebird attitude and a real attachment to the motherland, no driving rules, mixed up prononciation of v and w, a zen attitude and tendency to do everything at the last minute. Doesn’t it remind of someone?!

But the similarity ends there. Physically to start with: pale hulks with blue eyes versus chocolate (with the whole range of colours) weaklings with dark eyes. Underpopulation versus urban overpopulation (there are something like 4,000 times more Indians!). A certain sexual freedom versus a certain conservatism. An island versus a subcontinent. And then a major difference: the number of Asian tourists by square meter.

I am ashamed to say that I knew nothing of Iceland before going there. So when I saw a lot of people with slanting waiting in the queue for our flight at Paris airport I asked my favourite Indian if they were not Icelandic natives. Something like the Inuit you see? Well, little did I know that Iceland has in fact been populated by the Norwegians Vikings starting in 871. Before there was nothing. No Inuit. Just bears and polar foxes. The Vikings brought the horses, the goats (there are 3 lambs for each Icelander) and cows (which curiously have not mutated to become angora (unlike the horses) and therefore have to be kept inside during the winter because there the wind is so strong it could blow off the horns of the oxen, and it is not just an expression; it does clean your lungs!).

To get back to tourism, in 2015, Iceland received about 1.3 million visitors, of which 48,000 came from China and it probably doubled in 2016. It is only 4% but tourism figures actually include all the travelers arriving at the airport and Reykjavik has become a kind of hub for flights to the United States (which, with the United Kingdom account for 40% of the tourists). Also, apparently, Chinese like visiting Iceland in winter.

Iceland it was. A rough country where nature is queen. Where all the elements meet, air fire water, in their full power. It puts your ideas back in place, and it is splendid.

PS: Icelanders are very good at marketing, really creative, at least with regard to the promotion of their country. They sell you the northern lights like no other. But it’s a bit like the tiger in India, you go on safari searching for the Grail for hours and it is far from guaranteed ;) So better go in Iceland for anything else than the sky!

Some photos here

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08:00 Posted in My stories in India | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tags: iceland, india |  Facebook | |

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!