Return to the FRO

We moved from our service apartment to Palm Meadows in July. Our FRO permit lists our address as the service apartment, as that was our address for the first weeks in India. This has caused endless bureaucratic hassles as every petty public official has fixated on the diverging addresses like someone scratching at a sore bug bite. Usually this requires us to produce the lease to the house in Palm Meadows, as well as a letter from Daniela’s office stating that they rented the apartment for us. Frankly, I’m surprised that nobody insisted on that latter being notarized yet, but surely it is only a matter of time.

I was dreading the return trip to the FRO, even more so after my recent trip to the US. Two weeks ago, we probated my father’s will and testament. Essentially, this means the legal process of settling his estate so that the government now accepts the new status. The Ocean County Surrogate Court clerk who walked us through the process was nice, relaxed, competent, efficient, helpful and a host of other positive adjectives that Indian bureaucrats that I have run across have not been. Oh and I did not need to bribe her to do her job.

After that pleasant experience, I was dreading the return to the FRO. We had been informed by the consultants that at least one of us had to be there in person, so we could not simply let the consultants do it and bring us the updated permits. I was certain that they would fixate on some completely irrelevant factor, as the RTO had with my wife’s employment status and our marital status for my driver’s license. There is always something that is not on the official requirements list that they demand anyway. I’m not completely sure why this happens, but I suspect that it is either to show who is in power, to set the terms of the bribe required to get them to process it, or both.

Last Friday at noon was my appointment with fate. I showed up precisely at 12PM and met the consultant who had processed my FRO permit in the first place. He was actually on time. He had all of the paperwork required for the change of address for both my FRO permit and Daniela’s; copious stacks each containing a copy our our lease, that lovely little “we rented the house for this family” letter from SAP, the old permits, DNA samples, etc. Then he asked me something:

Where is your wife?

At the office, why?

She is a different nationality than you and also needs to be here.

I decided to try it anyway. After all, India is a very conservative country and I might just be able to take the “she is my wife so of course I can sign for her” approach if challenged. I signed my name where hers should have been on the topmost form of her stack, took both over to the big man and handed the stacks of paper to him.

He signed both without even bothering to look through them.

That was it. I handed the forms back to the consultant so he could continue and I was done. No demands that she show up and sign for herself. No strange requests for notarized copies of marriage licenses, academic credentials or proofs that I paid the cable TV bill. Nothing! It was completely painless and lasted all of 15 seconds.

I’m stunned.

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