Yesterday saw me back at the infamous RTO office to try and sort out my license debacle. I came prepared with a stack of documents and my best meek expression.
I’ve found that to get things done here there are 2 options:
1. The Indian option – this involves shouting and demanding to see someone senior.
2. The harmless foreigner option – this involves looking very innocent and bewildered and keeping quiet until your Indian counterpart comes up with a way to by-pass the official system.
Option number 2 has to be used judiciously though. No good using it on original 3-star officer. Yesterday’s 3-star officer though turned out to be a different kettle of fish.
After the usual “please stand in this random spot for 10 minutes for no reason”, I presented all my documents and all Mr B’s documents to the new 3-star guy who tried very hard not to look overwhelmed with all the foreign documents, and then proceeded to go through them with a fine-tooth comb and ask random questions.
nice 3-star officer: why is your name not mentioned on Mr B’s FFRO (foreign resident’s registration) card? (a legal requirement here)
me: oh, I don’t know (looks bewildered, knowing full well that it involves a monumental screw up by Mr B’s employer). The FFRO told me to apply to Delhi at the next renewal period (looks innocent, knowing that the FFRO and RTO offices are likely to have no direct means of communication).
nice 3-star officer: what do you do in Mumbai?
me: (with a meek smile) I am a housewife.
nice 3-star officer: Ah. (smiles and nods approvingly). So you will be applying to have the FFRO status updated in December?
me: Oh yes, of course (looks sincere and innocent)
I knew that I was making progress when nice 3-star officer’s assistant was asked to give up his seat for me and I was offered a cup of chai.
In India, the offering of chai at public administration facilities is a sign that serious business is about to be done and progress about to be made. Might be progress in the smallest sense of the word but still, progress.
Once 3-star officer had stamped and signed all my various papers, I thanked him in Hindi which drew bemused titters and smiles from the 20 or so people also crowded around the desk waiting to get their licenses approved. And who had also been going through our documents themselves with curiosity.
There we have it.
Later today I should be the proud owner of a learner’s permit. Apparently in a week I should be able to convert it into a full Indian driving licence. Even though I am officially supposed to wait a month. I may still have to do another driving test. Or maybe not. Who knows?