So, I have just had one of those rare days in India. The kind that makes me understand those expats who hate the place and can’t wait to leave. The kind that makes me want to pull my hair out and lie on the floor having a tantrum like my sister C used to have. Except that it is also 38°C with 70% humidity outside today which means that it is too hot to do anything without automatically getting in a bad mood. I should know, I spent 5 hours standing in the sun at the Mumbai Road Traffic Police Office.
Call me crazy, but I am trying to get my drivers licence here. Yes, that’s right. Me, a little expat, driving in the phenomenon that is Mumbai traffic. Specifically, I want to be able to drive (legally) the fab Ambassador that Mr B got me for Christmas.
Indian bureaucracy being what it is, I cannot just swap one licence for another. I’ve had to go through the whole training program (interesting experience in a car with absolutely no mirrors, a dodgy gear stick, and a front bumper that is tied on with string) and, of course, fill in copious forms. And take my “test” (turned out to be driving 100m round an enclosed fake road. I did have to do a hill start though. And beep my horn in a considered manner to get everyone out of the way. Don’t want you thinking it is not a strenuous examination process or anything).
I think I automatically should have passed given that 98% of the seemingly million people also at the RTO office were men. Who gawked openly and laughed at the strange foreign woman waiting her turn.
Having passed the test, I go with my driving “instructor” to see another RTO officer. A 3 star officer no less. He proceeded to inspect my papers and then just went off on one – a full blown screaming session accompanied by throwing my papers at me.
Taken aback, we went to see the 3-star guy’s more pleasant Boss. He looked over the paperwork, asked questions and told me that I could only have a learners permit and come back again in another 30 days to repeat the whole procedure.
On the second visit to get the requisite sign off, the 3-star officer refused to give me even the learners permit and started demanding to see a marriage certificate and Mr B’s work permit. A second visit to the Boss failed to make any headway.
Feeling very dejected, I scrambled home to get the marriage certificate, made the 45 minute journey down to Mr B’s office to get his work permit…only to receive a call from my driving instructor that the RTO office had now closed for the day so I would have to come back on Saturday. Or Monday.
We then took the Indian path to finding a resolution. We appealed directly to the head of the driving school, who apologised profusely for the behaviour of the RTO officer (but agreed he is probably a Hindu fundamentalist who does not like foreigners), promised to accompany me personally to the RTO office on either Saturday or Monday and to try and work it out.