Friday, January 13, 2012

Renewing X Visa in Bangalore

Hello friends and readers. First of all, apologies for the lack of updated stories on this blog. As some of you may have heard, I’ve been busy getting married (more on that later). I know what’s going through your mind right now – I have no right to this blog title anymore or that I should change it to something like 30s, married in India, but I disagree and you can’t make me change it!

This blog post I hope is more helpful than not to some foreigners residing in Bangalore on X visas. Or if you’re not in that category and can’t relate, maybe you can um, enjoy it anyway. ☺

Nobody told me that it was going to be this painful getting my X visa renewed in Bangalore. If I haven’t convinced you by the end of this post, then maybe I’m just a whiner. But seriously, if you have a choice to renew your visas in your own country, do it! But if you don’t, and want to experience “Amazing Race” Bangalore-style, this is what you have to do (the procedure below is of course, subject to change at any given time). I’ve also included suggestions on how to keep your sanity “normal”.

1. Drop by the FRRO office to pick-up the latest forms and checklist of requirements.
Note: Requirements on the checklist may not be up to date, so make sure to ask if they have any new rules.

2. New Rule (also depend on whether or not your visa has expired). Visit your local police station to get a piece of printed WORD document indicating you have no criminal records. If you go during teatime, the police officer might offer you a little plastic cup of (overly sweetened but delicious) chai.
Bring along: photocopies of your registration paper, passport, spouse’s passport & PAN card and a passport size photo of yourself.

3. Old Rule but New Venue. Visit one of the bigger post offices to get a non-judicial stamp paper (aka e-stamp). Pick up the form from the post office and on the form fill out Party #1 as you, and Party #2 as the FRRO. The stamp paper is worth Rs100 (plus a Rs10 fee) and the whole purpose of this exercise is so your promise to the FRRO to not take any jobs or do any businesses in India while you’re on an X visa is stated on piece of paper. Why and how the postal people are going to enforce this promise of yours, I don’t know.
Post office. Note: According to the postal person, the new way of making an e-stamp is through a website which is only available on weekdays between 9am-2pm but keep in mind it's lunchtime between 1pm-1:30pm, so to avoid standing on a queue that wraps around the block, go at 9am.

4. Photocopy all your documents. If you’re unsure if you should include a certain document, include it anyway. I’m on an X visa because I’m married to an Indian so I had to bring copies of my husband’s passport, his PAN card, my FIL’s PAN card, and the list goes on). Organize your documents in order of the checklist or they’ll make you do it at the Scrutinized Counter (this will make more sense later).

5. Submission of Application.
  • Step One: Wake up bright and early (because the officers have lunch at exactly 1:30 pm-2 pm and you want to try to get through as many officers as possible before lunchtime). Have a big, healthy (and happy) breakfast. Before you leave home, look over your checklist and docs to make sure you have all your copies (and originals). Bring a bottle of water, a good book to read and your passport.
  • Step Two: Go to the FRRO and get a token. Wait.
  • Step Three: When your token number is called, go up to the counter and get your documents checked. You may proceed to the level above. Wait.
  • Step Four: Wait at close to the Scrutinized Counter (While you’re waiting, feel free to walk up to the scrutinizer officer once in a while and ask when is your number going to be called. I noticed many people jumping queue and the officers were more than willing to scrutinize them first before you, even though their numbers were much higher and should come after you. I’m not suggesting you should jump queue, I’m asking you to remind the officers, who seems to forget, they should be following the numbers as well.) When your token number is called, walk up to the counter with your documents.
  • Step Five: You can now proceed to the lady sitting under the “IO/ISH” sign so your documents can be checked/scrutinized for the third time.
  • Step Six: Go over to the Immigration Service Centers (other side of the room from the “IO/ISH” lady) so someone can receive your scrutinized documents and hand you your next assignment.
  • Step Seven: Go to the nearest bank to get a Demand Draft (DD). Make sure to make the draft in favor of the exact name on the small piece of paper that was handed to you on Step Six. My father-in-law wrote a check to get me the DD, so I’m unsure here if you can pay cash. Make a copy of the DD.
  • Step Eight: Back to the FRRO. Drop off your DD at Counter 1 and the photocopy of the DD at Counter 2 or 3. Wait (this time, someone will tell you how long your wait will be). When your time is up, your passport with an X Visa extension stamp as well as your Registration Paper should be ready for collection.

Good luck!

The FRRO in Indiranagar

Friday, May 6, 2011

Leaving New York City

It took me a while but I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that I have moved out of New York City and the United States altogether. It wasn't easy for obvious reasons; I've spent most of my adult life in New York and it is the place where I was most comfortable and energized yet most confused, anxious and restless. It has shaped me into the person I am today. In India, when people ask me where I came from I’d reply “Malaysia” but at the back of my mind I’d say “New York City”.

Sappiness aside, I had three months in the USA to pack up my things and play tourist in my “own” city. Here are some highlights of my last trip to NYC and the rest of USA.

Californian Horse Ranch

Sanjay's horse
“A”’s uncle and his wife own this ranch that's about an hours drive from San Francisco. It was amazing observing these creatures. They were so huge, proud and intelligent. One of them unlatched the door using its massive teeth, so it can come nearer to me for some extra horse-y snacks I had in my palm.

(My first) Camping Trip in the Redwoods

A Redwood Tree, California
Many, many thanks to Mr. + Mrs. Shadley who graciously drove us to the Redwoods and showed me everything I needed to know about camping - "modern" camping, that is. Needless to say, I was dirty by the end of the weekend, but I had a blast exploring the quiet forest surrounded by nothing but these giant ancient trees. Why would anyone put a hole in a 2400 year old tree?

An Indian Wedding in Kentucky

Nisha & Rob's Wedding
Congratulations Nisha & Rob!

Roadtrip from the Midwest to the East Coast

View of from our drive at Charleston, West Virginia
Here's the scenery from our drive in Charleston, West Virginia.

Washington, DC

Washington Monument
The Washington Monument, standing so very proudly.

Half-day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Jassy

Jassy at the MET Museum
Cheese! She was so excited when "A" and I picked her up from her school, she couldn't stop bouncing. She wore her favorite tutu and the necklace and Indian bangles I gave her. We had a great time learning about mummies, pyramids and Christian art, thanks to Uncle A(l)mit.

September 11, Ten Years Later

Pretty mesmerizing. Brought back memories of what happened on the actual day.

Ice-skating at Wollman Rink, Central Park

Wollman Rink, Central Park NYC
This is how excited my sister got when she finally tore herself away from her clingy kids and skated for like five minutes.

Halloween - Kiddy Style

Halloween in NYC
I haven’t been to anywhere else in the world where people celebrated Halloween as seriously as the New Yorkers do.

Thanksgiving Once More

Thanksgiving Dinner, NYC
Two full days of cooking with my sister and one of the best dinners we've made together. We were too exhausted to eat during dinner time, but it was worth every achy feet. Possibly my last one in the USA because it’ll be strange to celebrate Thanksgiving in India, no?

My Farewell Party

Farewell dinner, NYC
One of the many in the past few years. This one organized by a very good friend, N.

Saying goodbyes were never easy for me. If I had a choice, I’d give up goodbyes eternally. I recalled being surprisingly calm when I shut the door for the very last time to my little 100-year-old tenement apartment on Mott Street, which I’ve lived independently for more than 3 years.

Window-living room
The living room window which is often blocked by my 18" flatscreen TV. Right outside the window is a tired-looking fire escape, weakly attached to the building walls which has a signboard that says something along the line of “if you get caught standing here, you’ll be fined $5”.

Bath-kitchen-dining Room
My unforgettable kitchen, dining and bathroom.

When it was time to say goodbye, I recalled it being a bit tough to hug everyone while putting on a fake "I'm alright" smile and holding back sobs. I was told life goes on, and you just have to go with it. I’m looking forward to my new home (it should be ready any day now...) and a new chapter but needless to say, I’ll be missing New York, especially the people in it.

Jules, latest edition to the family
Jules, the latest edition to my family.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Muslim Wedding in Ooty

I can safely say that I have attended more Indian weddings than any other types of weddings. If the last Indian wedding I went to in Goa was way too hot, this Indian wedding in Ooty was slightly too cold. Nonetheless, it was beautiful and a lot of fun, despite catching a bad cold. It was a good excuse not to drink shots.

Ooty Ooty, where the air is crisp and the skies are (occasionally) blue.

Day 1: The Sangeet
Sangeet @ The Taj Savoy Hotel
A nicely choreographed Bollywood-style dance by the bride's good friends.

Sangeet @ The Taj Savoy Hotel

Day 2: The Brunch & The Manjha Ceremony
At brunch
At brunch.

Bride in a beautiful white saree.

At brunch
Live band at brunch. This is "A"'s dad singing a Louis Armstrong song.

Manjha event space
Manjha ceremony area. Manjha ceremony is when the bride is smeared all over with haldi (turmeric) paste usually provided by the groom's family. I think this is also when the bride gets all the wonderful gifts from him and his family.

Day 3: The Nikah (Wedding Ceremony)
The Nikah (wedding ceremony)
The bride and her entourage.

The Nikah (wedding ceremony)
Traditionally, the women and men are to be seated separately, but we didn't do that at this wedding. The bride has to stay under the veil until her husband unveils her.

@ The Nikah (wedding ceremony)
Bride taking a peek from under her veil, for a group photo.

The Nikah (wedding ceremony)
And finally, the happy newly weds.

For more photographs on the wedding, click here.

Note: To drive from Bangalore to Ooty, if you leave by 6 a.m, it will take about seven hours. Any later than that, with the bad traffic, your journey, like ours, will be an additional two hours or more. If you are prone to car sickness, like me, you should take a motion sickness pill before the start of your journey. Or if time is not an issue, I highly recommend you stop and spend a night at one of the resorts in Masinagudi (a forest reserve in Tamil Nadu). If you're lucky, you might spot a wild animal or two.

Wild elephants @ Masinagudi
A wild elephant at Masinagudi

Jungle Retreat, Masinagudi, on our way to Ooty
Jungle Retreat at Masinagudi. Click here for their website.