It has been 8 years since I've lived in India. Breathed the air. Walked the streets. Fought the traffic. Dealt with the bureaucracy. Especially the bureaucracy.
No one does red tape quite like the Indians. They looked, listened and learned from the British and then took it to a whole new level. The Indian government's favourite dance? Making everyone do the Run Around!
Last week, I applied for a tourist visa for my upcoming December trip. Filled out the paperwork, took the pictures, paid the fees online, even downloaded the online checklist to make sure that hadn't missed anything. Went off to the agents here in Glasgow to submit the documents. The fact that the agency was located on the top floor of a local Punjabi centre wasn't the strange part. That you actually had to walk through the main dining/cafeteria area to get to the stairs was what I found a bit odd. Anyway, it was early in the morning and except for one sleepy looking lady who was dreamily making sandwiches, the place was deserted.
Got upstairs and submitted all the documents to the agent. He goes through my application and then asks to see my Indian passport. Eh? That wasn't on the list! I explain that since I've only moved here temporarily, I don't have old (and outdated) documents. It's all back in Toronto. He says that I'll need to submit a copy of the pages that show the passport has been cancelled.
That involved a lot of rushing back home, making a call to Canada, waking up my brother, getting him to scan and email the pages to me and then back to the agency before it closed at 2:30pm. This time, the reception area was filled with old Punjabi men and women sitting around watching Zee TV and drinking masala chai. All conversation ceased as I made my way through the chairs and around the sofas to get to the door feeling like a contestant on a freak show!
Mr. Agent Man thanked me for the additional documents and told me that it would be about 2 weeks for the visa. In turn, I gently (but firmly) asked that he make sure the website was updated with such information.
That would have been a great end to the story.
Instead, today I get a call from the Consulate in Edinburgh telling me that the photocopies are not adequate and that will need to submit the original cancelled passports.
More frantic calls to Canada. More running around by my brother. More expense as he has to pay extra to have it expressed mailed since the postal guys in Scotland are planning a strike next week.
Indian f*cking red tape bullshit. Just when I think I'm out.... they drag me back in.