Incredible India? Yes indeed. Try it yourself with a one year valid tourist visa, good for multiple entry but with a mandatory gap of two months between visits to India. What’s behind it? Officials claim that misuse of tourist visas made this step necessary. I don’t know, whether this clause is due to the terrorist attacks in November 2008.
Well, everybody likes to be protected but is this really some kind of prevention? I first landed in Mumbai Mid December. A week later we haded off for a ten days’ holiday in a neighbouring country that resulted in two visits at the Indian General Consulate of that country trying to gain a re-entry permit to return to India for my flight back home. Permission was granted to me at that consulate but evidently seems to be effectless at the Mumbai immigration counter.
Arriving at the counter I indicated the re-entry permission stamp in my passport which however did not have any positive effect on the officer. I was led to another office where I had again to fill in some kind of form and left with the obligation to contact FRO-office in Pune before heading to my home country. Well, do I have to know FRO-office?
Fortunately, my partner works for a big company here so they kind of worked on that case. For four days nothing happened and I was running out of time. Then, two days before leaving I had that appointment at the FRO. Actually, we just picked somebody up there. Then we drove to some Police Station somewhere in the Pune jungle where I was being asked questions like “What’s your landlords name?” How am I supposed to know that? I don’t live in Pune I just want to catch my flight back! The officer told me that he will visit me at my home. Was I asking for some kind of a green card and mixed up India with the United States? My confusion rose continously.
After we had left the police station I reminded the FRO-guy once again that I need that certificate fast as my flight would be tomorrow evening. “I know”, he said, “that is the problem. But I am trying.” That was the moment when I knew I was in trouble.
Just five minutes after we have left, I got a phone call from my partner that the police officer would already be waiting in front of our flat. How? He knew I had just left the police station? However, he was friendly enough to wait another five minutes until I arrived at the building. Then there were more questions like whether I would know the neigbours … excuse me what? Finally the guy told me, papers might be ready tonight.
After another phone call we were told that papers might be ready for pick-up at 11 a.m next morning. Next morning we are driving again to the police station, our “middle man” is already there with the papers filled in. However, the police man on-site does not seem to know anything, i.e. papers are not ready. Plus he wants two ID pictures which I do not – as a tourist – have with me. There is more discussion in Hindi, which I do not understand but it does not look promising. Our middle man tolds us that we need those pictures first. We drive to “fast foto” where the pictures are taken. Our middle man takes them to the police station promising to give us a call whenever he is ready to see those FRO guys again. Es geht eine Weile hin und her, schließlich fahren wir zum “Fast Foto” und machen Passbilder. The whole thing is getting more and more weired and I have no clue why, plus I am running out of time.
After another two hours of waiting time our middle man calls us again. FRO seems to be ready for the final “Certificate”. When we arrive at the FR0 we are not allowed to enter the building through Gate 2. Gate 2 is reserved for foreigners but, as we are told, closed on saturdays!!! I simply cannot believe it! We call our middle man again (is not he supposed to know such things beforehand?). After a while he lets us know that the person in charge is having his lunch break. We shall return after one hour at 3 p.m. Waiting, again, uncertainty once again. After one houer our middle man calls. We return to the FRO. This time we are granted entry after our middle man has come to the entrance ( I am sure he paid something for it). There are more papers to be filled in, papers are scanned, one of the ID pictures I had to make is just torn off. There is more discussion, more people who do not look happy or satisfied? Finally we are talking to the Commissioner, i.e. our middle man talks, I am praying. Even though I do not understand any Hindi it becomes obvious from his gesture and facial expression that he is not going to issue that damned Certificate. There is more intervention from our middle man which leaves the Commissioner unimpressed. Just when we are about to give up and leave the place, the Commissioner gives it a second thought. 10 minutes later we hold the certificate in our hands, stating that I can leave the country until January, 31st. All I want to do right now is to leave this place as fast as I can. I did not get the sensuousness of this completely idotic and totally disctretionary procedure nor did I gain the impression anybody in India has an idea about it. Anyway, I will get my flight. Too bad there is somebody in that country that I cannot abstain from. I get the feeling somehow that might made up for a very good Bollywood story.