When toddlers attack

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Slumping towards home - Leaving, Part 1

No, we're not still in our room at Svelte.  Yes, I'm still blogging.  But, damn!  These baby things are a great big time-suck!  Who knew?

Things unfolded thusly:

The Passports

Gagan at the U.S. Embassy called us on Monday afternoon to let us know that the girls' passports indeed had arrived as foretold.  I left Adrián on diaper duty at the hotel and headed to the embassy and back.  Turns out the passports had arrived, but the consular reports of births abroad (CRBA) had not.  I decided that that was not a tragedy, since we didn't need them to head home, and the girls won't need them until they have to prove they were U.S. citizens from birth, like, you know, if they run for president or something.  Sure, the first female, Spanish/Catalan-speaking, half-Indian, part-Jewish daughter of gay dads president.  It could happen.

I couldn't choke back my "awwww!" when I opened the passports.  I even showed Gagan behind the glass window.  The little infant pictures next to all the stats beloved of passport control officials everywhere was kind of like seeing a passport for my dog, cute but sort of pretend.


That set the stage for a manic next day -- starting off with the most daunting, the most terrifying, most dreaded circle of bureaucratic Hades ever to face an intended parent:  the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, or FRRO.     Since legions of parents have gone before, and since everyone assured us it's much easier than it once was, and especially since John and Michael at Our Gemini Dragons had already posted the best guide to the FRRO - EVER, we only cried a little as we approached the blue fiberglass awning covering the waiting area. 

No, not "FRO"

Picture two groupings of metal chairs divided by an aisle.  The chairs face a table on which sits a paper held down, this day, by a piece of wood.  We sign in, number nine. A sign directs Afghan applicants to sit on the right; everyone else to sit on the left.  Satish, the driver, says he can get a great deal on "Fair and Lovely" for his wife at the army canteen next door and we sit with assorted other Westerners, amusing ourselves by trying to keep flies off the girls and by trying to decide which one of the Afghan refugees is most handsome.  At one point, nature calls, and I rush inside in search of a toilet.  I find a traditional Indian one, sunk in the ground.  That wasn't the problem.  The lack of soap, toilet paper or even a toilet-side nozzle thingie like the one I've grown secretly fond of at our hotel, are.  I'm reminded once again why it's rude to eat with your left hand in India, and decide that perhaps I really don't have to go as badly as I thought I did.

We arrived at 8:45.  At 9:30 on the dot a man comes out, picks up the paper, and chaos ensues.  He begins to call people by groups of five.  A man tells us to barge our way to the front with the babies, which we do, and we're directed inside. 

I think I read a book once where Hell is an endless bureaucratic office.  The author must have visited the FRRO -- desks line the walls, each with its own resident little grey man (no women work here, that I can see) or two.  Paper is stacked high on each desk.  Not a computer terminal in sight.  Chairs are lined up in the center of the room, suggesting that this may not be a brief encounter. 

The chairs lie.  We're in and out in about a half-hour. 

We go, as directed by John and Michael, to the reception desk, just to our right as we walk in the room.  The man gives us a list of four or five required documents, and I note with trepidation that it includes a "letter from your hotel."  That wasn't on the list SCI gave us... in fact, it wasn't on the FRRO's online list of required documents, either.  He sends me to the ominous chairs to put the papers in order.  I've already made duplicates of everything back at the hotel.  I am PREPARED!

"Where is the letter from your hotel?" asks Grey Man Number One with a whiff of annoyance.  "It is required." 

"Ummm... here!"  I say, offering him a bill for incidentals Svelte had presented us this morning.  Evidently, it's close enough.  He huffs quietly, takes the bill out of the envelope, stares for a second, then adds it to the pile of xeroxed copies I had given him. 

Stamp.  Stamp.  "Come back at 3:00," he says.