Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Day of Contrasts

Today we got to visit the FRRO - Foreigner Regional Registration Office in New Delhi.  The FRRO is the primary agency of the Indian Bureau of Immigration to regulate the registration, movement, stay, and departure of certain foreigners visiting India.  Only foreigners that are visiting India on a long term (more than 180 days) Student Visa, Medical Visa, and Employment Visas.  Registration is also required in the case of Visas less than 180 days if there is a special endorsement "for registration required" (as there is for Medical Visas for Surrogacy).  So, most foreigners who visit India never have to visit the lovely FRRO.

Mr. Joy made an appointment for us and carefully went over all of the paperwork that we needed to have for our visit today.  Anyone required to register must do so within 14 days of arrival and generally the sooner the better.  We had copies of our driver's licenses, passports, visas, marriage certificate, and birth certificates, as well as a form from the hotel certifying that we are staying there and a letter from the clinic certifying that we are being treated there.  We were told to have originals of all of these documents on hand in case they were requested.  We were also instructed to answer only the questions asked and no more.  Mr. Joy seemed very nervous about our visit and we were starting to get a little nervous ourselves.

The outside of the FRRO looked nothing like government offices here in the US.  We started in a waiting area outside under an odd green plastic roof.  We were given a number (hand written on a slip of paper) and given the OK to proceed inside.

The inside of the FRRO looked a lot like a really old DMV office, complete with the red digital number counter on the wall and bad wood paneling.  When our number was called we went to the registration desk, they looked over our Visa type and told us which number window to visit.  They only asked one question - our wedding date - I think to verify that it was really our marriage certificate.  Thankfully Mark remembered our anniversary date.

We proceeded to window number two, which was for surrogacy.  Their was another couple ahead of us so we had to wait for a little bit to proceed.  The officer there looked over our passports and our paperwork for while, and then proceeded to stamp a couple of pages and then send us to the signature authority.  There our paperwork and passports were signed and we were given a signed summary page that we were told that we needed to have with us when the surrogacy process was complete to register our baby.

All in all it really wasn't that bad and took about an hour.  When we left we found Mr. Joy who wanted to know how things went.  We said fine.  He asked us to prove it and produce the paperwork.  He looked it over and seemed VERY relieved.  We found out that they have had some couples who did not get their paperwork signed off on in the past - that is why they are very diligent about reviewing our documentation.  Luckily we got through with really no issues.

We went back to the hotel for lunch and to rest for a while.  Mr. Joy met up with us again later in the afternoon to take us shopping.  He suggested that we have him along to help negotiate prices.  He will be busy with another couple from the US starting on the 2nd, after that time our driver should be able to help with these things.

We started at a "cheap market" - where many middle class Indians shop.  I don't remember the name of it, but he said it was named after a famous Indian freedom fighter.  It was REALLY busy and pretty dirty.  We were constantly stepping around garbage (luckily it looked like mostly food) and trying to avoid running into anyone while keeping up with Mr. Joy.  There was a lot of household items - dishes and such - and a lot of clothing.  Nothing was really nice quality and we were getting mobbed by street vendors so we moved on.

We then went to a "high end" market, which ended up being Khan Market http://khan-market.com/, which we were told that we should visit.  This is where the rich Indians and the tourists shop.  We were much more comfortable here - it is actually a lot like many open shopping areas in the US and carried a lot of US brands - Levis, Kiehl's, L'Occitane, even Crocs.  Mark was quickly getting bored with shopping so we only went into a few shops.  I quickly snagged a couple of the Delhi "must buys" - some Kama Ayurveda Rosewater and a pretty pashmina scarf. 

I could see that Mr. Joy was slightly horrified/amazed at how quickly I went through 2,500 rupees, which is only about $41.67 US.  I explained that these items were easily twice to three times as much in the US.  I didn't realize that Kahn Market is the New Delhi version of Fifth Avenue and I often forget the difference in the cost of living.  I just gleefully spent roughly one month's salary for the average Indian in a matter of minutes and could quite easily spent a year's salary given ample shopping time.

When I get down about things I need to remember that in the grand scheme of things, I have a lot in a world where so many have so little.


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