Saturday, February 04, 2006
I never even imagined that even opening a bank account would be a nightmare for me (that too when I have a Swiss account ;)).
Good news first: Strange enough, I got my UK visa without any problems (Touchwood) on the same day of my application.
Branch news: Branch news: but for my daughter when her visa was applied from India thru’ travel agent, initially her visa was refused without explanation. Two weeks later when her father applied in person during his India trip they issued the visa for the previous application and refunded the money for the new application etc…..But, still a month’s mental tension and pain caused can’t be taken back by the UK embassy. May be my name (mother’s name) had caused this delay/initial false visa rejection ;) for her
Coming back to the bank account issue, since Dec 15th, I have been actively trying to open a bank account.
1) And to open a bank account, I need to have Employment Contract or Address Proof.
2) When I apply for a job they tell me that I need to have an NI number and Bank account J
3) When I try to apply for NI number they tell me I need to have a proof of employment J and address proof from Bank/anything).
Which will I get first?
I managed to take the TV licence on my name to have address proof. But, was told, that was not valid. Only utility bills on my name for past three months J can be considered valid it seems.
They said they will accept a letter from a Doctor or a Solicitor stating that I live at the address mentioned. Then, I will be able to open a Basic Bank Account (just the ATM card, no debit, no credit, no savings). Fine, that’s okay to start with.
After the letter from my doctor, I proudly went in again to the same bank (probably 5th /6th time). By now, most of the bank employees could recognize me well J
But, in the letter, the doctor has mentioned, “according to our medical records Mrs.Vijayalakshmi Sundararajan lives in the address mentioned”. They can’t accept it as doctor didn’t assure her address and said “according to”. Finally the letter and the application form were forwarded to the head office for the decision.
After a few days, I received a letter from the bank asking proof of my previous address. Upon sending the same, I finally received a letter with details of my bank account. But, until today I haven’t received the ATM card and the PIN number.
When I visited last week, they said they had sent it already and I need to report as “lost/stolen card”. Funny enough to report a card as lost/stolen when I haven’t even seen it myself. Anyways, I have done so and now I need to visit the Bank coming week (as I told them that I will collect the card in person not to send by post). Let’s see how it goes.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I have visited Belgium twice before, once in Nov 2002 (Business Visa) and then in Feb 2003 (work permit visa) both the times my visa was processed by my Indian Employer. No problems at all. Belgium government and I were in good terms :) . But, this time, I was no longer under the Roof of Indian Company. I needed to process things on my own for my stay in Belgium. I was going to be a dependent of my husband. I went to Belgium with my old Belgium stay card and decided to change my status to dependent.
1. In Belgium and in most of the EU countries (I guess) if the stay is for more than 3 months, they issue a temporary visa and then we need to register our address in the local commune/town hall and after the police visit & verification of the home address the commune issues a stay card (carte de sejour).
2. Normally the validity of the card is only for a year and we need to renew it every year (first four/five years).
I went to the local commune to change my card status from working –> dependent and also to extend it till Sep 2004. (My old one was valid only till Feb 2004). They asked me to bring my marriage certificate and birth certificate attested by the Belgium Embassy in India (Mumbai/Delhi).
Wow! I at age 25, my Birth certificate was applied for and that was under process (That is another branch story …..hmmmmmmmm). Though, I had the marriage certificate I decided to wait till I get my birth certificate, as I didn’t want to repeat the process of attestation for my birth certificate. Hence the first delay due to Birth Certificate. Once I got the birth certificate, I managed to convince one of my friends in Mumbai and the Travel Agent from X-Company to process it (attestation by Belgium embassy in Mumbai).
1) My father posts the certificates from Trichy to my friend C in Mumbai.
2) C then posts it to Travel Agent in Mumbai :) (internal company post).
3) Travel agent takes those certificates to the Embassy and was told that they need to be attested by the home ministry of my state. That is from secretariat in Chennai(GRRRRRRRR, if they don’t believe the genuineness of the certificate what is the point to have one, for that I can type my own letter saying I married so and so on this date and stuff , they can get them all attested…isn’t it ?)
4) Travel Agent posts it back to C.
5) C posts it back to my father in Trichy.
Poor certificates! How much they travelled ! Their journey continued and doubled…
My certificates are now ready for Chennai sight-seeing :)
6) Certificates are with my friend M and she found that they had to be first attested by an attorney and then Commissioner of Police office verifies his credibility and after all these the “Secretariat office will stamp”. Good for India. But, how come they perfectly issue all the supporting documents for terrorists ;)?
7) My husband’s brother in Chennai took charge now. He got it legalized by a lawyer in Chennai and then took it to Commissioner of Police office in Chennai. Ha!ha! My luck, worked there and the lawyer happened to be registered with “Kanchipuram district”, not under Chennai. So, the certificates were posted to Commissioner of Police office in “Kanchipuram”. No news for weeks. I lost all my hope.
8) My father’s contribution now. He made two trips to Kanchipuram (overnight journey) and then to Chennai and finally “Tamilnadu formalities” were over. (I am sure, my father has got stories to tell about his venture).
9) By then, my friend “C” who was in Mumbai already left to the U.S. My uncle (Dad’s younger brother) from Ahemadabad happily took over:). On receiving the Certificates at Ahemadabad , he traveled to Mumbai (12hrs from Ahemadabad) and finally got them “attested by Belgian Embassy”.
Whose fault is this?
1) By Belgium Foreign office part – its okay, they want to have some confirmation from their own people who are put up in India (Attestation from Belgium Embassy in India). But, why doesn’t Belgium embassy in India, accept my marriage certificate and why did they ask for attestation from my state secretariat?
2) Why the hell didn’t my own state secretariat ask for further attestation by Lawyer and check by commissioner of police?
3) And also, why can't Indian government issue Birth/Marriage Certificates in a common format. The format/size/color al differ from state-state (even from distict -district). Even, if it has to have two languages (state language and English) also, they can issue in same format. But, mostly they are in Enlgish.Grrrrrrrrr..
So, I could have printed my marriage information in a piece of paper and verified all these by above people. Why did we waste quite a amount of time (that’s another stupid 6-8 weeks story) to get Marriage certificate in the first place.
Anyways, finally my Indian part of Belgium dependent visa is over. Belgium events will follow soon.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
What is Social Securitby Number :
The nine-digit Social Security number is used by the US federal government to track workers' contributions to the Social Security retirement system. Because it is unique to each individual, it is widely used as a personal identification number. Most VA healthcare databases identify patients by their true SSNs or by scrambled versions of them.
I went to NY on Dec 15th, 2001. During that week, our Regional manager took the three of us (two colleagues also arrived in that week to NY) to the Social Security Administration office. We applied together for Social Security Number. The other two persons got their SSN in two weeks time (which is very common) and I did not get it. I got it six months after the application date. Unbelievable, isn’t it? I made two more trips to the Social Security Administration office and made a dozen phone calls to the SSA office. They told that verification on my immigration status with DHS (Department of Homeland Security) wasn’t over.
I couldn’t get my driving license without SSN (anyway managed commuting with friends- car pooling.); fortunately, they allowed me to open a bank account without SSN,after a small drama. One of my friends “L”, who believes in Astrology and Horoscopes, felt that something in my horoscope is making these administrative tasks worse for me. Though I didn’t bother about it at that time, now I have second thoughts on his comment, as these things are becoming a routine to me.
In June 2002, I got my Social Security Number finally. By then, I was ready to go back to India (Sep 2002).Ha-Ha!!. Guess what, I got a nice rhythmic number (SSN). Though I know that first three digits of the SSN are determined by zip code, etc., I convince myself saying these two "Viji, your wait is worth, you got a very nice rhythamic number" and "எது நடக்கிறதோ, அது நன்றாகவே நடக்கிறது- கீதாசாரம்".(Whatever is happening, is happening Good - The Essence of the Bhagavad-Gita).
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
V (Viji): "You promised me that you will send my file within a week to passport office".
R: "Yes. I told. But, Mr. C is not happy; looks like you have not given him anything".
V: "I gave him perfumes and cigarettes too".
R: " He just needs money".
[This question whether this greedy man(R) took everything or C really refused them is still a mystery to me.] Mr. C came inside the room.
V: "How much should I give?"
R: "You decide that madam".
[I opened my handbag and took out some Rupee notes and they panicked]
R: “not like this, not like this...”
R said to C: "As she is a lady, she might not have had these kinds of experiences before". (Of course I didn’t have)
R gave a file to me and said: "Keep the money inside the file and bring it back" (I did so).
After a week also file didn’t move. Went again to meet Mr. R, the man in-charge of letting people inside (security officer) really had something against me. Every time he tries to stop me (but finally fails).
R said that he had sent the file to the dispatch section people and he cant help further. Hmm.Hmm.
Due to pressure from the Belgium Branch, HR person from our company “Mr. M” accompanied me to the Commissioner’s office. He bragged that “he and the Commissioner were real good friends, most of the people in Hyderabad knew him, he was a popular (country level) Tennis champion 20 years ago, cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin is his relative, he was the first one to own a imported bike in Hyderabad those days and also about his trips to other countries to play tennis by ferry (as flights were not used much those days).
While Mr. M was parking his car, I tried to get inside the office; as usual my friend didn’t let me in. Then Mr. M came in, he didn’t let both of us go inside (we kept waiting outside, like school kids who were punished). We stood there nearly for 25mins. I started wondering what Mr. M is up to (does he really know anyone here etc, etc)
Three officers in uniform (everyone were getting up and saluting them) were passing by. At the sight of Mr. M, they came running towards him “Sir, Aaapp…Aaapp…why are u standing here sir, you should have just called us, etc.,” and scolded my friend who didn’t let us in. He then saluted Mr. M as well(i learnt how to be very patient from Mr. M)obviously our work was done that day. They asked me to visit them again in the afternoon to collect the dispatch number.
In the afternoon, Mr. M abandoned me (as that was just the matter of collecting the dispatch number), so I went alone. This man out of frustration started shouting at me "Madam, what do u think? Do you think I will be scared and let you go inside if you bring big personalities? Even if Vajpayee (that time Prime minister) comes along with you, I will not be afraid”. I just smiled at him and went inside.
After two days, Mr. M met the passport officer in passport office and within 2-3 hours finally I got my PCC on hand. I really laugh out loud when I think about my PCC experience.
Friday, May 20, 2005
PCC is a document issued by the passport office which assures that the concerned person has not done any crime in the past. But to get a PCC in India you should have done/have to do minimum one crime(as bribing is also a CRIME), otherwise you won’t get one. Surprising! I feel shame about it. Here is my experience.
I neededPCC for my Belgian Visa and I was living in Hyderabad that time. But, I preferred to apply PCC from Mumbai as my passport was issued there. HR insisted me to apply from Hyderabad as they believed that they can influence the local police in Hyderabad.
I made my first visit to the Hyderabad PPO(passport office) to collect the application form. Then I visited again to submit the application. They gladly accepted it and asked me to visit them after a week to know the outcome.
I went there a week later. They introduced the first uncertain climate in my journey to get the PCC. They told that my file was sent to the Commissioner of Police office in Hyderabad for address verification as my passport was not issued at Hyderabad. Excellent! I need to go again to COP office, but this time it was to Hyderabad Office instead of Mumbai.
Alright, I was already in the game so I decided to think how to make the move. The major advantage in Hyderabad is, it is easier and cheaper to travel to every nook and corner by an auto (a three wheeled private taxi service in India). This is not possible in Mumbai as the city is spanned across a massive area and autos are not allowed to ply inside the city centre limits. I also thanked the God for saving me from the ever crowded Mumbai electric trains (Metro trains of India).
Nextday ,went to Hyderabad Commissioner of Police office at 8.30am. Enjoyed watching the "parade" played in Honor of the commissioner. (I still don't understand why such a expensive honor is needed for a commissioner, that too everyday). They asked to come after 10am. After a lengthy security check process they let me go inside at 10.30a.m.
Mr. M , HR person from my company was so sad his helplessness and the privileges he lost (like-getting inside passport /cop office and picking up the files needed for him etc, etc.,). Still he gave me a reference of Mr. B , who works in COP office and usually takes bribe to do the work.
I finally found Mr. B and explained him the problem, he made a big "Kumbidu (please leave me kind of gesture)" and said he can't help me. He also asked me inform Mr. M not to give his name to anyone else as that might spoil his reputaion(Great! he changed for good).
Mr.R , another gentleman, who works in the same office called me (he speaks a little Tamil too). and said due to some internal problems Mr. B doesn't accept bribe anymore. He assured that he can help me (person to replace Mr.B is ready) and had a look at my passport.
Then, Mr. R said to me: "oho. You just came back from Belgium ? Didn't you bring some foreign cigarette (why on earth I will bring that?), Atthar- Kittar? My daughter likes perfume. Didn't u bring any ladies perfume for you from Belgium? (He didn't even wait for my answer and continued) I will send Mr. C (police man) to your house tomorrow morning to verify your address, give all these items to him and he will give it to me".
I just nodded my head and came out with a shock of being asked for bribe so bravely (all this happens inside Commissioner's office,Great !!).
Later learnt from my hubby that this "Attar-Kittar" is nothing but a kind of perfume. Why on the earth Burma bazaar's (place where they sell foreign goods) are there in every city? Went there and bought the so called "attar (two different brands)", cigarettes and "perfume" too for his daughter. As I was smart enough (at least that's what I felt at that moment ;-) ) I bought the same items for Mr. C also.
Next day "Mr. C" came in police jeep but he was in mufti (looked like a local thug). He sat very comfortably on our chair(near table) and filled the forms (as if it was his office) and then asked me to get two witness signatures from my neighbors. It was very nice of him that he did his duty perfectly, unfortunately to do this I need to bribe him. Hmmm. Gave him the products. He gave one "Aassatu (smiling in shy)" smile and asked me "O! Did "Mr. R" ask for it?" and collected them. In return of his duty, I then handed him another package saying that it was for him. He happily left the place.
Assuming that everything will go smooth I went to Pune. When I went to PPO after a week , was very surprised to find that they have not received my file from commissioner's office.
will continue in next post....
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
I could see from distance when she picked up the cover that the letter was from passport office. My heart started telling “ thank god, unbelievable, my passport, finally, etc ”, but I was warning myself that this may even be yet another letter from them asking me to come and meet them.
When I opened the letter, there it was.
God!!! My Passport, My Passport. I felt like hugging my passport and crying ;-)
The funniest part is my passport didn’t have the ECNR stamp (because of which I waited till I got my degree certificate and applied in Mumbai). Anyway who else might have had such a wonderful time with Mumbai Police & Passport officials.
Don’t think my struggle was over just with my passport. Will post soon about my ECNR story…..
Finally I could meet the passport officer with that letter given by the company, but it made no difference. He said unless the report comes from Trichy nothing can be done. This irritated me so much. Why do all these things happen only to me? Went to meet the agent immediately after the meeting with passport officer as his office was in the same building as that of passport office. To add the fuel, he said what the passport officer has said is very strange and he (agent) can’t help me as there was a new rule against the agents in passport office.
Hmmmmmm….Tears were already in my cheeks. I was hurt like no one else had even been. I was so tired and fed of this game (running here and there for nothing). I was in a position where I can no longer meet any people or visit any offices regarding this passport.
I felt like making another application at Trichy passport office, but as that was against the government rules I gave up that idea. But my roommate went to TamilNadu and came back in a week with a “Takkal Passport” in her hand (though she had made an application at Mumbai as well).All my roommates have the passports now except me. I had a feeling that I will never get my passport and I can never go outside India. I did nothing about this passport for next one month.
But something happened…………..
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Finally I went there (had no choice). This time the news was that they had not received a police report yet from Trichy,Tamilnadu. As I haven’t lived in Mumbai for more than two years they need to verifiy my old address as well. (they torture innocent people like me and issue passports happily to all kind of terrosits, funny)…..
I can’t go to Trichy as it is 36hours by train from Mumbai and also I just came back from my vacation. My father’s turn now. He visited our Srirangam police station two-three times and finally the police man came home in a Motorcycle to verify whether I lived there and he decently asked my mom money for his petrol charges and Xerox charges. Thank god, atleast he asked for it means he will move it. And he did it.
My roommates who applied for passport two months after my application through the very same agent and company got their passports without any hassles. This really lowered my morale.
Even after a month my reports didn’t reach Mumbai. My father this time visited a “the head police office” somewhere far from Trichy. Even my sister and BIL went to try their luck.
meantime, my company gave me a letter to the passport officer stating that I need to visit a client in U.S etc….and asking them to treat my passport file with high priority. This standard letter from my company had a good impact on most of the people's application.
But the period I went with this letter to the passport office was wrong. One of a Muslim's duties, as described in the Five Pillars of Islam, is to go on a Hajj at least once during his or her lifetime. This is a pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in Saudi Arabia. Which means they all need passport to go there and the only one month was there so everyone where rushing behind their passport. Can you believe that i got into a Stampede (had a feeling on that day as if i was already in Mecca) that too inside the passport office?
Another funniest part is the passport office opens at 9.30am but people start lining up from 8am (the line goes till 2-3 streets) just to enter inside the office. If you are late for this queue you can’t get inside the office.
I think my roommates might have got a feeling, that I was doing some parttime job at passport office as
1) i was getting up at 6am (which i hate to do)
2) going to Borivali Train station by bus
3) took a train till Dadar
4) and from Dadar a shared Taxi to passport office.
I did this continously for a week. One day when I was waiting for the share Taxi , one lady all of the sudden came and put “kumkum” on my forehead b4 i could resist her and told me that whatever you for will succed and asked for money(good begging technique). As I was too hurt and tired of this passport game, I felt that as a good omen and gave her 10Rs. That’s what I know. Like a flash there were five ladies with plates and all put “kumkum” one after another on my forehead and all asked for money. I ended up spending totally 50Rs that day on them.
But nothing worked. What did i do next ? coming soon…..
peak-hour mumbai train by which i travelled variuos times to Passport office and Commisoner of Police office...
b4 getting into the train , everytime i prepare myself mentally and physically (to get courage) to travel...though they have a First class ladies compartment, doesnt make much difference except the nice perfume smell around..
once i took my originals along and i tried getting down at Dadar (passport office) as my files bag got stuck inide the crowd, i travelled till the terminus (churchgate) and took another(opposite direction - so the crowd is less) train and came back......
Next day I went to “Borivali East” (the place where I lived) police station (that was the first time I to a police station in my life). Met the man in charge of address verification. We had trobule communicating with each other, as he couldn’t speak Hindi as well English(he knew only Marathi) and me not a single word in Marathi and a lady constable helped us (by acting as interpreter for 2-3 mins).
Without even asking my details (like my file number,date of my application, my name,address) he said that they haven't received my file. This annoyed me as he wasn’t a database and he can’t give such answers just by looking at my face. And another thing is I look very horrible with a front haircut in the photo I had given for the passport application. So, I insisted him to check the files. He refused to do so. Then, I went to the complaints officer of that police station and launched a complaint against him. After that he flipped all the 200 paper based files in 10mins (like a super human) without even looking at the files, he was mainly occupied in scolding me (luckily I didn’t knew Marathi ;-) ) and finally the answer from him was again the same.
I went to Commissioner of Police office again (Victoria Terminus). This time I took an off-peak hour train and it made a real difference. They told me that my file was sent to “Borivali – West” not “East”. I felt bad for the complaint i made against that police man (as it was his life and job) though he deserved it.
Again a visit to police station, but this time aother one (Borivali - West) and couldn’t meet the police incharge of address verification for 3-4 days. Finally I met him one evening and he was a nice gentle man (though he doesn't come to work weelky 2-3 days ;-) ) . He looked into his log book and located my file number. Surprise ;-) . As he felt my house is more close to Virar Police Station , he forwarded it there. Wow !!! I need to visit yet another police station. Great !!
One fine evening I hired an Auto and went to the Virar police station (though they said that this police station was near my house, i saw those roads for the first time). The station looked like a “Booth Bangalaw”. I lost all my hopes of finding my file there.
The man in-charge then opened a very old dusted trunk box which had and guess what my file WAS there. I guess they assumed that I might never go in there in search of it and put the file in that unused Box, but I did go ;-) They made me to run around for a week asking all the unnessary docuements. Actually, later i came to know that without bribing them they don’t clear the file. I guess , as I was a female and to top it I didn’t know their local language fluently so they hesistated to askthe money explicitly and I didn’t have a clue also that they might except money from me to pass this file further.
As they didn’t like me visiting them everyday asking about the file status, finally they cleared my file and forwarded it to the Commisoner of Police office and I visited COP office again and they confirmed me that they have received the file from Virar police station and they also assured me that they will pass the file to passport office in Dadar,Mumbai . I was happy that the headache with this passport was over and again made a stupid assumption they will issue a passport for me and I happily went on a month’s vacation to my hometown.
When I came back from, I had a another letter from the SAME COP office.... Details Soon………