Forms and function

May 8, 2017

Well, I’m back. Sort of.


Since I last posted here, there have been a number of changes in my life. The biggest is that I now no longer live in Cambodia. It turns out that my stupid lawyer didn’t bother to tell me that my appeal – against the giant fine the Cambodian judiciary imposed upon me for maligning a fat French paedophile – had passed, and that at the very least I had been banned from the country for five years. And this had occurred in February 2016. Clearly no one had told the immigration department. Or me.

But it seemed like it was a good time to leave. Blossom was pretty fed up with the place, Harley the Wonder Dog was miffed that all dogs have been banned from Phnom Penh’s parks, and, to be frank, I was kinda bored of the country.

So now we’re in India. Currently in Delhi, we’re going up to Ladakh (the Land of High Passes) for the summer, to write and ponder and be entertaining. I’ve always loved India, but it is a difficult place to get work visas for. But this new job dropped into our laps a few months ago, and he we finally are.

But the paperwork! After Cambodia, where you arrive at the airport, hand over some dollars and waltz in, this place is insane. The forms and interviews in the UK, just to try to get the visas were tough enough. Harley needed me to send 14 separate documents to get a certificate to get him through the airport, followed by an interview with some obscure government department after we arrived. I’ve been here nearly a week, and I’ve spent the whole time filling in forms.

I still don’t have an ID card. Bank accounts need a 20-page form. My Foreigner Regional Registration Office interview is still in the works. The tax stuff is utterly indecipherable. My employers have asked me for a copy of every page of every passport I’ve ever had. They just gave me a form in the last few minutes asking for details of my last six jobs, plus salaries, job titles, mother’s maiden name and job title and my blood type, among other things. And yet I’ve already signed a contract. I went to get some more passport-sized photos taken, and was told I needed at least 30 of them.

Yesterday I had to fill in two copies of a form. At the top were spaces for two identical photos of me, one on either side of the page. For god’s sake, why? For what possible reason can anyone need two identical pictures on one side of a piece of A4? Stupidity in stereo.

It’s lucky I’m a fairly relaxed sort of a chap, because this level of crazed hyper-bureaucracy could easily drive you mad. I’ll keep you posted, as long as I’m not inhabiting a padded room somewhere.


5 Responses to “Forms and function”

  1. David Hayhurst said

    Glad to hear you’re all safe and well. But I honestly can’t decide whether to admire your steely-eyed fortitude in moving to India, or wonder if you maybe have put yourself up to a Challenge Too Far.

    I can rant at you more generally about my one and only fateful trip to india in summer 1996, if you like. By the time I got to Delhi from Rajasthan, I had pretty much broken up with the woman I had travelled there with. Which made the last few days awkward, not least of all since her mother was arriving from England the next day…

    It took us about half an hour and the efforts of six guys at the airport to book a hotel and taxi. Remarkably, the hotel we had already booked into was not available, but one of the guys knew of a lovely place, which happened to be run by his cousin…

    At some point in the drive to the hotel – late at night and in a monsoon-season deluge – our driver decided that he’d had enough of trying to find the place and wanted us out. After he’d pulled over to argue with us properly, Emma my now-ex-girlfriend asked two passers-by for directions. Within seconds, this escalated into an argument between them and the driver which may very easily have come to fisticuffs. Or possibly the exchange of gunfire, who can say.

    We eventually made it to the grotty glorified hostel, and booked an extra room for her mother next door to ours, who arrived early the next morning.

    Meeting her mum went about as smoothly for me as I could have hoped for. While Emma was chatting with her mum in her room, I pressed the wrong button on the wall trying to turn on the light, and summoned the “concierge”.

    He arrived at my door, and i apologised. He noticed that Emma wasn’t there, gave me a knowing wink, and left…

    .. to go next door, and ask Emma’s mum – in front on Emma – if she was looking for some Fun Sexy Time.

    India: really glad i went. Really REALLY glad to leave.

  2. David Hayhurst said

    And with regard to your bureaucratic hassles, you’ve got a lot more experience with the place the I do. But do you reckon greasing a few palms would not only speed up and simplify things for you considerably, but, more importantly, is more generally expected? Isn’t it still basically a baksheesh-based economy, especially for what I would imagine are woefully underpaid people whose sole power is in their rubber stamps? Of course, there is a nuanced art to bribing people effectively, not least in not offering insultingly low wheel-greasing sums, and probably bribing the first people well enough to not have them mention it to colleagues – or, God forbid; their superiors – to the point your turn into the befuddled, foreign cashpoint-on-legs. Or would you disagree?

    If you want to read a hilarious account of travelling in Asia in the late 80s, try to get a copy of Video Nights in Katmandu by Pico Iyer. He has a hilarious account of trying to get between cities in India, with everyone he asks giving different stories (“no, there is no train station in the city where you want to go. Let me arrange you a taxi, driven by my nephew.” “Of course there is a train station where you want to go.”

    Meanwhile, of course, everyone is trying to sell him something, or buy the clothes he is wearing.

    • Dave, I can’t wait to read your memoirs. They’re going to be wildly entertaining. As to ‘tea money’, I rarely get asked. I’m too bloody-minded to pay up to the sort of muppet who might ask, on the whole. It probably wastes me a lot of time, though.

      • David Hayhurst said

        “Too bloody-minded to pay up to the sort of muppet who might ask” for money?

        Well, considering you’re now living in a country where you could be in a shootout with the cops, or trapped in a flaming truck wreck, and people would still be trying to get you to depart with every cent you have on you while simultaneously trying to pick up your wife…

        I “admire” your “tenacity”.

        Yeah, I’ll leave it at that….

        Best of luck to you … as India gradually pulverises you into a thin, zesty sandwich spread.

      • So I’m guessing that it may be some time before we see Mr and Mrs Psycho Dave out here for a visit, then?

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