Within two weeks after arriving in Mumbai foreigners are required to visit the FRRO office located in Fort. We were advised by my husband’s company to get there at least 15 minutes before the 9:30 opening time or spend all day waiting. Our scheduled day turned out to be the quintessential monsoon day–step outside for 30 seconds and you might as well have taken a second shower for the morning.
The building itself was small, old, and charming. I wondered as I boarded the rickety 4 person elevator with my toddler, how many thousands of people have done the same over what must be the lonnnng history of this elevator. We took the stairs down.
Only two people waited before us in the dark, humid, water logged hallway as the FRRO staff trickled in warning each other not to slip on the puddles that had accumulated on the floors. We were beckoned to a desk where a brisk woman looked over our documents and wrote our numbers in pencil. The waiting room was air conditioned and littered with the discarded umbrellas of the employees set out to dry. My sidekick was very impressed with a painting of Ganesha reclining on a couch.
Within 30 minutes and before our numbers could be broadcasted onto the digital sign, a woman approached us gesturing and saying, “Come, come.” We followed and handed over our documents. Thankfully the chairs were of the spinning variety so my two year old was occupied for the first 30 minutes or so. The woman processing our papers constantly confirmed everything with another woman sitting next to her, I’m guessing as a way to catch any mistakes, and then at random intervals, with no warning and without looking at me, would prompt me for confirmation as well. I concentrated hard searching for the English among all the Hindi, so I’d be prepared when she did this, but even then it went something like this: “987654, yes?” “I’m sorry, pardon?” “Your husband’s passport number.” “Um, yeah, sure, if that’s what it says.” *embarrassed, but hopefully endearing smile* We hit a snag about an hour in as apparently our visas are a new type of visa and there was no way to enter it into the computer. Cue consultation with 4-5 other women over another 1 hour period. Eventually they found a solution and moved on to my sidekick’s registration.
At this point 2.5 hours in sidekick decided she was done with the spinning chairs, cricket matches, friendly employees, cookies, crackers, and water, and the floor grew slightly more slick from the tears of my wailing child. Apparently that’s all it takes to speed the process up as her application was done within 15 minutes and the women even waived all the fees for us! Ladies and gents, the power of children.
In Japan a visit to the immigration office means hours waiting with an initial visit and a secondary visit to pick up the finished immigration card. In India everything was done within 3 hours and they printed out our official registration on a home printer in front of my eyes, stamped and signed it, and we’re good until next year, when we have to renew it. I wish I had more concrete info to share, like what documents we had to present and how much the fees would have been, but acknowledging my privilege outright, we didn’t do any of it. The company does it all. THANK YOU COMPANY.
I didn’t realize this the day we went, but we were just a hop skip and a jump from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya aka The Museum. If you are ever there without a screaming 2 year old, it would be the perfect follow up to a morning stuck listening to someone confirming your personal information over and over.