Of Vessels, Lefties and City Palace
June 19, 2009
The other day I paid a visit to Jaipur’s Police headquarters. I had to register myself at the Foreigners Registration Office which is under the supervision of the District Superintendant of Police.
The DSP’s office is in the City Palace’s compound, up a flight of old, high marble stairs. His Personal Assistant, who has notably kept his post through the change of government, assigned a minion the trifling task of escorting me through the various steps of my registration and off I went, flanked by a policeman, expecting excruciationg hours of form filling and questioning.
I was quite nervous. I absolutely needed the registration papers, but I also knew how tricky these people could be. They could ask me all sorts of questions, and request all sorts of papers I didn’t have.
I was made to fill a form in 4 exemplars. As I started writing my father’s eye color and the way I acquired my present nationality, the officer in front of me jumped off his seat, letting out frightfully loud cries of joy. I froze.
“Have I done something wrong Sir?”
“No, no! But you are a leftie! Ha! How wonderful!”
“Are you a leftie too Sir?”
“Yes!” he said with the broadest smile this side of the Nile.
“Oh, well then you know we are smarter, it’s been scientifically proven!”, I beamed back.
“Yes!” he kept smiling.
“And better tennis players!”
He stopped smiling.
“I don’t play tennis.”, he said, suddenly grave.
“Oh I don’t blame you…I much prefer…cricket…” I mumbled.
That seemed to please him. I kept filling the form.
One question left me clueless: “Name of vessel on which you have arrived in India“. I decided the Virgin Atlantic flight VS 300 would do.
My leftie friend then proceeded to check my documents. He wanted 6 ID pictures. I only had 4, I said, horrified.
“Oh it’s ok it’s ok. Four is ok.”
I was starting to like my stint at the Police headquarters.
He then asked me to follow him.
As we walked out, I asked:
“Are you taking me for questioning now?”
“No no, no questioning.”
He ushered me into a plush air-conditioned office where sat a very chic man wearing gold-trimmed spectacles. His boss, obviously.
He looked at my papers for a quarter of a second. My friend said I was sent here by the DSP. He nodded. Off we went.
Back in my pals office, it was then time for them to fill their forms. For half an hour, they scribbled information a million sheets of paper. There was much use of carbon paper. Yes, carbon paper.
It was kind of boring, so I decided to interview them to pass the time. Discreetly, you know.
“Do you keep criminals here?”
They found this really funny. I really didn’t. I knew old palaces had underground cells that were still used.
“No. Criminals are in police stations.”
“But this is a police station!”
“No, this is Police Headquarters.”
“Well then you should have the really really really bad criminals here.”
“Bad criminals are in jail.”
“And where is the jail?”
“On Agra road. Maybe you want to go see it?”
“Oh no, no, not at all Sir!”.
I gave up on my carceral inquiries. Better stick to cricket.
Soon they had finished my registration and handed over the papers to me.
“This was really painless, I exclaimed, what a nice office. I shall bring my friends here to do their registration.”
“You can, but for your friends it will take three days.”
“But….then why did it take half an hour for me? Did you give me VIP treatment?”
“No, not VIP. VVVVVVVIP. We had orders.”
Turned out, this highly civilized treatment had been arranged by my landlord (aka Papa-ji for those of you not familiar with this formidable figure in my life), who seems to know everyone in the terrifying world of bureaucracy.
I wonder if he could get me a driving license.