Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Foreigner registration office experience: An eye opener on priorities in life

I had the misprivilege of visiting the FRRO in Mumbai to register my foreigner sons. No matter how much you prepare towards visiting a Government institution in this country you come up short. That's been my experience thus far. At the onset there was a line then another line and then another one. At the end of every line we would reach a person who would ask us to get into another line to get something accomplished in that line and then re-join this line. People standing in that line would smile at us with an "i almost told you so " look on their stupid faces. In the final line there was a Danish woman next to me. She was a gym instructor in a place near Copenhagen and had come to India to set up a chain of gyms starting from Poona. It was her third trip from Poona to Mumbai as she had to register herself or risk getting deported back to Denmark (which she might have not minded by then). She was complaining endlessly about the way she was treated and how unprofessional government institutions tend to be. At that time I was almost regretting moving back to India (not very seriously though). How can we Indian's be so unprofessional at treating foreigners who are used to great levels of service.

After standing in two such lines and almost two and a half hours later I went and took a breather on a bench nearby. Next to me was another woman. She had come from Turkmenistan. I was guessing she was going to start complaining about her harrowing experience at the FRRO, but, she told me a story that would change the way I think. She was living in Mumbai in a ladies hostel with her 10 yr old son. The son was autistic and needed to be accompanied at all times. She had come to Mumbai to take a course in raising autistic children to help with her son. She contacted some form of strange intestinal infection-illness and had to be hospitalized. At this time her kid was alone in the hostel and with no known person in Mumbai she was in some serious trouble. Her husband didn't have money to come down to Mumbai and she could not be flown out. She was in a lot of trouble. In come the hostel ladies. They took complete charge of the situation. Over the next two months they alternated hospital duty, taking care of her son, taking him to the park, getting him ready and teaching him the assigned school curriculum. She was moved to tears while telling what had happened. After her return, they collected money from fellow hostelites to sponsor her first month's rent there as she could not have afforded it.

Hearing this story was a major anti-climax. So what if some Danish Gym instructor has to stand four hours in a line to get registered. We have our priorities in the right order :-))
This can happen only in India.

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