Visa escapades in Jan and March

Here’s an update on my visa situation. Be prepared it’s a long one!

I’ve been based here for nine years. I’ve set up a tourism business for Manjula to ensure she has a secure income.

The first mention of a little local difficulty was Here where I give credit where it’s due

The story starts when entering Bangalore Airport in August (after five weeks in U.K.) I was questioned by FRRO/immigration. They let me in but insisted I register with the FRRO on arrival in Mysore. I did. I’m a bit confused as to why.

Anyway, I registered.

So in October, I get a phone call from Anant, one of the original Directors of the company. He’d been contacted by the FRRO (police/immigration) in Bangalore with a whole series of questions. They were investigating me.

Subsequently they wrote to the very local police station asking them to contact me and get documents and a statement. They were focusing on the fact that I’d ‘wilfully’ not registered at the mysore FRRO each time I’d come back into the country.

I wrote a statement saying that if I had to register and hadn’t it was purely a mistake. I also explained Manjula and I had got married earlier this year, the company was set up for her, I wasn’t employed by the company and received no remuneration. They subsequently asked for my tax returns which I couldn’t supply as there were none as I wasn’t employed and had no income. Get it? 🙃

So as of last week.

I was due to fly to Sri Lanka for my first ever visa run. The time between my arrival in August and the next time in the U.K. was over 180 days so I had to leave the country by the end of Jan.

So what could go wrong?

The day before I was due to leave the Mysore FRRO telephoned and asked me to come in. It was the same helpful chap featured here

Bangalore had informed him, they had decided that I was on the wrong visa.

Sugar!

It was presumably because of the low level of investment/turnover in the business. It’s a small business predominantly for Manjula so doesn’t earn much money and doesn’t require much investment, just some furniture and cycles.

Sugar, this is a real problem. If I leave the country as planned they will not let me back in……

This is a critical time for us.

It’s our busiest time with just a few days with hardly any guests so my plan has been to nip out and rush straight back. Also Manjula had not been well, because of a recurring problem (more later) so I was essentially holding it all together (that’s juggling all the stuff, preparing rooms, making breakfast, leading cycle tours. ( I know, I know violins are playing, but I’m a man, multi tasking is NOT easy) thankfully there was the help of our two cleaners and a Special mention for Tom, Amy, Anne and Dave and of course the forbearance of my panicking – will he get back in- wife.

I’ve just got to go. It’s now or never but it can’t drag on.

What to do?

I feel like I’m appearing in Fawlty Towers and Keystone cops! here I come 🙃

The great guy at the police commissioners gave me an option. Apply for an x (aka entry) visa as a spouse. Great idea. I wonder how long would this take? I just can’t be away from home and Manjula for more than a few days. It doesn’t seem feasible.

I’d planned to fly out of Mysore to Chennai, then onto Colombo on the friday (next day) and back on Sunday. Tickets were bought, small bag packed. Eek.

Tom had a solution: Get a tourist e visa to get back in. I applied on the Thursday, it would take 72 hours to be processed, I flew out on the Friday due back on the Sunday but wouldn’t expect to get the visa until Monday so would forego the flights and dash back as soon as I got the visa. Then I would fly in to Chennai where I’d hope they’d let me in.

Phew. Sounds like a good idea. An Indian solution.

I apply and I’m off….

So it’s Saturday and this trip has proven to be one mishap after another. More details here.

After a day walking aimlessly in Colombo I had supper ( no micro breweries) and headed back to the hotel with my sea view from the balcony.

You know, sometimes things just work out. It’s a hallmark of India. On getting back I get an email confirming my e tourist visa. Wonderful! Not only has it arrived it’s in time for me to go back as planned on the Sunday using the tickets I’d bought!

So what was Sri Lanka like? Loved it. As they say it’s India lite. More later.

Back in our piddling little airport. Yes we walk from the plane.

Next.

I go and get an x visa in March in Sri Lanka when we’re not busy and hopefully Manj is feeling better.

Oh no I won’t.

It’s now March and I’m just heading back to Sri Lanka for a few days. I have a second e tourist visa that will see me through to May when I return to the U.K. and I’ll get an X visa.

Confused?

I just wonder what form the U.K. itself will take in May.

India and Italy

India and Italia

Unexpected connections…..

It’s a little light relief..

India and Italia, begins with I and ends in A

Some of the best Veggie food in the world…, India and Italy.

What seems like chaos on the roads, Italy and India.

Do you get the Drift? It’s uncanny really. I’ll continue…..

Corrupt politicians, India and Italy.

Politicians in Jail, India and Italy.

Politicians who should be in jail.

The need to bribe public servants to just do their job,

The highest concentration of wood inlay artists in the world. India (Mysore) and next is a village in

Italy…

Sexist society, well OK thats everywhere.

male dominated, Patriarchal society, Italia and India.

except at home Where the big boss is mamma (Italy) and amma (India) , who serves their little ones, fusses and feeds their children until well into their teens and sometimes beyond

The family and it’s extensions are pretty big in both countries and children, particularly boys, are worshipped,

so, Extended family, children focussed, India Italy.

People who squeeze children’s cheeks, India Italy.

Spoilt boys who become little Princes, India and Italy.

And what’s all that about not getting round to things until the last minute, if at all, ever? Maybe Manana was not from Spain after all…..

there are some bits which are not so easy to be light hearted about…

Preoccupation with skin colour between north… light and south, dark.. (southerners, work in the fields, of course!)

And that’s playing safe, without getting into the politics

And who’s responsible for these uncanny links…. I wonder?

Why does it have to be this way?

the Indian Government insists that your national ID card, known as the Aadhaar Card be associated with your mobile number for you to have continued service. As below. (I’m not commenting here about ‘Big Brother’ and will leave that for another time. )

So I dutifully visit my local Airtel shop to do the business.

Young Airtel woman:

Sir, you can now call this number (as she hands me a small card) and arrange it on the phone.

Foreigner:

Takes card. Readies his…. Two phones, (one to use and one for password, ok maybe overkill, I am 61), his Aadhaar card (yes foreigners can get one) and phone bill.

Calls number. It’s working. Press one for Indian and press two for foreigner. I press two. Line goes dead. I try again. And again. And again.

Slightly irate foreigner:

“It’s not working”

Airtel young woman

“Come back on Monday sir”

Foreigner

“Why can’t you do it now?”

Airtel

Some mumbling about not having working equipment.

More irate foreigner.

“This is my third time here to sort this out. (Slight fib as it was my second time). Why can’t you do it! This is ridiculous” or words to that effect.

She calls me over. Gets out her mobile together with the fingerprint reader and does the business. It takes just a few moments.

Now why didn’t she do that in the first place? Why did it take two visits, phone calls, telling me to return in two days and a bit of a fit? To get her to do her job properly.

It’s not just in India but one of life’s conundrums. Instead of just doing their job well, being helpful and informative they give us the ‘runaround.’ Shame really.

well ‘Big Brother’ has just got back to me….

 

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Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven….

I think not!

But it is a new beginning.

We know there are many of our friends in India and around the world looking forward to hearing about our latest tussles with the bureaucracy.

So here it is….

We’ve taken the big friendly giant (BFG) step and now fully registered Mysore Bed and Breakfast with the Police, the City Corporation and the Karnataka State Government. It’s been an absolute ‘joy.’ Yes, really 😉

If you like to see ‘the big picture’ first check the one at the bottom.

Step One

Visit: The Police Commissioner, followed by the local Police Station, to get a letter saying Manjula is a cool chick. No no no…. to show there are no objections ie. she’s a great character, has no record and the Police and neighbours have no objections.

Please note we’re saving you the agony by missing out 90% of the actual experience of visiting and managing the differently organised police service.

Step Two

ok, so you’ve got your ‘get out of jail free’ card, or your statement saying there’s no objection. Now collect up your documents: rental agreement, letter from owner agreeing to you using the house as a homestay, receipt for payment of tax.

Go to the office.

Then sort out the mistakes: redo rental agreement (letter not good enough) and pay extra tax. Spend two weeks trying to meet up with the officials, get letter typed up, and on and on and on… you just wouldn’t believe it…

is it incompetence, ‘we don’t care’ attitude or an intentional wind-up?

Step Three

The registration with the Karnataka Government was relatively straight forward. Complete the online form, upload the documents provided by the Police and City Corporation and rental agreement. Pay the bill, electronically or face the ordeal of going to a state bank queuing up, paying in cash or bankers daft, getting a receipt, scanning it in, uploading it. Forget that option! paid-up…. We now await the visit of the inspectors.

Step Four

Register on line with the Police to have foreigners come and stay and complete the online Form C within 24 hours of each foreigner who comes to stay. We’ll provide more details of this wonderful…. time consuming employment creation ordeal…. later to enable me (Stephen) to fully flaunt my Yorkshire sarcasm.

So we’ve done it. The team has arrived at the top step, we’ve had our highs and lows, we’ve learned to laugh and cry, we’ve met formidable obstacles, gone with the flow, we’ve sunk our flag in the hallowed ground. It’s taken time, almost a year, we’ve grown as a team and Manjula has made it happen. Phew!

She’s a star!

Next…. we’ll we do it all again next year.

The big picture

The A team includes:

Manjula, aka the boss, on point, who has traipsed around all the offices, made endless phone calls, been endlessly put off, turned up at the key offices to find the ‘houdini’ *official/policeman/Babu/patriarch (*delete as appropriate) has disappeared…. gone for lunch, on holiday, maybe hiding in the toilet, who knows? She gets a gold star for determination, fortitude, strength, with just a little innocence in the mix. madam has seriously been through it all!

Akram, auto driver extraordinaire, helping Manjula face the torture, mysticism and labyrinth workings of the Mysore City Corporation, and hiding outside when she faced the officials of the police commissioners office or the helpful smiley chaps at the local Police Station. To be fair he’s an auto rickshaw driver, rightly with an innate fear of coming into close contact with the constabulary.

Vidya and Tanu. Our knight-ettes in shining armour. Being Manjula’s counsellor, advocate, comforter, advisor and support in dealing with the Police.

Stephen, The clerk, computer operator, form filler, recorder and scribe. He lurks in the background. In the belief that to show his pale face will significantly add to the costs of said registration process.

 

Thank you for your invaluable help!

new journey

imagewe’re setting out on a new journey…. after the wonderful experience last year (Note English sarcasm) ..to firstly ensure that Manjula’s various IDs were accurate and consistent with name, gender, address, date of birth ( it took, four months), then the ‘reality game’ of applying for a passport (two more months) and being knocked back a couple of times (the board game of these tangles with bureaucracy will be in shops soon) then to top it all we applied for a TOURIST (yes just for a holiday) visa from the UK Government just at the time of some insignificant Vote or other (Brexit aka Biscuit idiotic referendum) only to be summarily rejected (Brit Govt is fast on its rejections, three weeks total) and applying again with an avalanche of papers (two weeks)… for you dear reader, what feels like lifetime’s experience compressed into six months has already been documented on these pages. Some of you may remember it .. well this new journey is…. wait for it…. an application to register as a Homestay with the Karnataka Government.

IMG_1428in my English wistful sort of way I think it will be very straightforward and probably a damn sight easier than a similar process in the UK.

lets see

background is we’ve been operating on the same basis as an AirBnB property but this year the Karnataka Govt has introduced a new rule and that means everyone has to register with them.

As I say let’s see, first step following the ‘critical path’ , let’s find out what’s required 🙂

Chamundeshwari fought the demon

It’s early in the morning, a little after 7 am. I cycle up to the brow of the hill and can hear a drumming in the background. Maybe it’s a significant day, a Mela or something else to do with the local goddess.

This is the home, of the goddess Chamundeshwari, her temple and effectively, her woodland garden, the hill is one of the most sacred in the whole of South India.

As I get closer, I realise it’s not what I first thought.

The ‘drums’ are the sound of the diggers breaking up the stones as part of the redevelopment of the hill top.

The hill takes its name from Chamundeshwari the local goddess (aka Durga) who lives on the hill which is just behind Mysore Bed and Breakfast. You can just about see the temple Gopura in the main picture in the far distance.

DSC01379Chamundeshwari is famous for dispensing with the demon: Mahishasura after which Mysuru or Mysore is named.

It looks to me that there is a new demon that she’ll have to deal with and the demon is development.

A few days later I join a walk up the hill to find out a little more…..

 

Hundreds of people walked up the hill as part of a demonstration against the planned development. For those of you who’ve visited you’ll realise its a bit of a mess up there. God knows what it would be like it if wasn’t a plastic free zone….. so there is no doubt  the need to do something

But does it need a new guest house? (there are already two that are not used), a shopping complex? a mulit-storey car park? and a four lane highway? In our view all these plans will devastate the hillside, damage its bio-diversity and make matters so much worse but do the local powers that be give a damn?

Hence I think there is a new demon in town that the Goddess needs to sort out!

Its that magic word development that they keep throwing around. Politicians use it as a catch-all phrase to defend all sorts of unsuitable decisions. Are we against development? by which they must mean progress… well erm yes, if it means destroying the lungs of the city and decemating the woodland, yes if it means worshipping and promoting growth regardless of the consequences.

It has the potential to be an amazing place, not least for the views of the city.

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But for that to be realised, we must have: some participation of the people in this thing called democracy, an end to mindless development and some sustainable and practical proposals to deal with the problems. These are currently  unfettered illegal growth, litter and too much traffic. These are practically and relatively easily resolvable with the right approach and many local organisations have come up with suggestions. In my view, it isn’t about grand schemes as they will not work and are, in any case, designed for the short term gain, with money going into a whole range of pockets and the needs of the people and the environment completely neglected..

This will be an interesting story to follow to see how local politicians and the civil servants manage to properly manage the conflicting priorities and show how well they are suited to representing the interests of people and the environment whilst  maintaining long-term sustainable development when and where its appropriate..

 

Rewards

image.jpegI have three rewards!

No 1 is sharing the absolute joy of Manjula who seems to have won the lottery! Well she has got a visa for the UK… in her terms its a VERY  VERY BIG win.

Rewards 2 and 3 are the beers I’ve brought from the US and tonight my celebratory tipple will be the first since I returned from my amazing holiday in the US and Canada, with my youngest son Oliver.

But this affair has been a long and arduous journey, firstly (four months) sorting out the inaccurate and inconsistent forms of Manjula’s ID before we were able to apply for her first ever passport (three months) and the grand finale: two applications (six weeks, at least they’re fast!) for the UK visa

But all that quickly and quietly recedes into the distance as the appreciation of Manjula shown by the intensity of feeling bouncing around our home at the moment 🙂 makes it all worthwhile!