I walked out of the Foreigners Regional Registration Office today with a smile on my face. Not because I got what I wanted, or what I needed. But more because I understood something and I accepted it.

I applied for visa extensions five days ago on behalf of my wife and kids. My Business Visa is good for another six months, but their Entry Visas were only valid up until December 17th. Today is the 15th. I’m smiling because I’m not worried.

The system here works in a certain way. It’s different than anywhere else I’ve ever been, but it works. It’s complicated – at least, it is to a foreign mind – but it still actually makes sense, as long as you’re willing to think like an Indian. As a non-Indian, that’s not easy. It takes time. In the past four and a half years, I’ve walked out of the same FRRO with a great many different faces and feelings. I’ve had my share of tension and frustration in connection with visas and registration. And I’ve seen far worse from other foreigners in the midst of their own struggles and challenges. However, I no longer expect things to happen here like I would expect them to happen in Canada or somewhere else. This is India. I understand that. I accept that.

I also understand that the people who work here are not necessarily my enemies. Perhaps there are people within the system who abuse their positions of authority from time to time, or on a bad day they may be stubborn and become easily irritated by belligerent foreigners. For the most part, I feel sorry for them. They have heavy workloads and a stressful work environment. I see them trying, and I appreciate that. Usually, when I smile and speak gently, they respond in like manner.

Today, I talked to the police at the FRRO because I was told that our applications for extension are pending a police enquiry. We've been through this before. A police officer is sent out to our home to verify our situation, to gather a few more photocopies of essential information and to prepare a report. I'm not sure how long that will take this time around. I was told that the police investigators are very busy and that the one designated to our area may be away for training for the next 15 days. Perhaps another officer could come out. Perhaps. After the report is filed, then I have to collect that report from the Ministry of Home Affairs and then bring it back to the FRRO where they will hopefully stamp our passports with the appropriate extensions. This will all take more than a couple days.

I understand that when our visas expire and our applications for extension are still in process there is no need to worry. It will get done in time. Thankfully, our situation is quite straightforward and our request is routine. Until it is complete, however, there is still an element of uncertainty. Life is like that. I think it’s supposed to be. It's like that everywhere, isn't it? It’s not just India, though I am willing to admit that uncertainty does thrive here in a special way. Especially for us foreigners, it can add to the stress, but it can also add to the sense of satisfaction. Today, I am confident that when I walk out of the FRRO in another week or two week’s time with our visa extensions in hand, I will be smiling again.

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