A note on my three blogs


A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.

Enjoy!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Travelling with the family

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If you already have an invitation, you can read the entry here.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A year without shampoo & how to wash your hair with reetha (soap nuts)

(La même page en français!)

Today is a big day for me! Yes, today is my first anniversary of being poo-free. I have not used shampoo for a whole year, and I am still delighted about this change in my life.

I have not written anything about being poo-free for six months, yet my hair has changed and my experience has evolved further since then.

(1) The first thing is that it will have taken about 8 or 9 months to make a difference, but now I really lose my hair a lot less than I used to. And here in India I used to lose my hair more during the hot season, but those days of are over, finally.

(2) The second thing is that it took me quite some time, but I have finally learnt how to use reetha (soap nuts) properly. It used to clean my hair well sometimes and badly at other times; now I finally have the hang of it. As a result I have also grown to like reetha more than baking soda, which I only use when it is inconvenient to soak reetha overnight, for instance after a night on the train or if I have forgotten to soak it the day before I want to wash my hair.

And so for my first anniversary, I have decided to write a detailed guide on how to use reetha/soap nuts properly - or at least how I use it and how it works for me. Because most of the websites I found on going "poo-free" talked about baking soda only, and because I only found (very few) websites explaining how to wash hair with powdered reetha, but absolutely no-one that explained how to use soap nuts in their natural form!

NB: Soap nuts are a cheap local product for me because I live in India! I am aware that they are very expensive in Western countries; still they can usually be found in organic/health food shops so feel free to try! If they are too inconvenient/pricey for you, there's plenty information on how to use baking soda in the list of links below!


(1) Preparation:

In the evening of the day before washing your hair

It's very simple, but you have to remember it. If you wash your hair in the morning, the evening before put some soap nuts in a bowl of water. Some people use hot water, but I don't find this necessary if the nuts are going to soak all night.

- My hair is quite long and I use 8 to 10 nuts. It is important that the nuts are open before you soak them, since the soap is secreted from inside the nuts. To open a nut you can use a knife to cut through its soft top and crack it open. Alternatively, if you think about it, about 3-4 hours after soaking the nuts are soft and easy to open by hand. A round black stone comes out from each nut; you can remove them from the water if you want as you won't use them.
- Do not add too much water, otherwise the soap will be too diluted and it will not wash well. I pour about 2 cm of water in a medium-sized bowl, like on the picture below.



In the morning before shower

You will need:
- the soapy water in which the nuts have soaked overnight; it should be dark yellow/brownish.
- the juice of a lemon in a small cup, topped-up with water, for conditioning;
- a clean comb. I use a wooden comb which I regularly clean using soda becarbonate and a toothbrush.




(2) Hair washing with reetha:

Remove the nuts from the water and keep them aside, as they still contain some soap and you will be able to soak and use them again. Throw away the black stones. The water is now soapy, and it should be quite dark yellow in colour like on the photo above. If it's too limpid it won't wash your hair well enough.

Pour the soapy water little by little onto your wet hair - tilt your head back so that the water won't go into your eyes, as the soap stings them badly! Pour a little water, massage your head; pour a little more, massage, and so on. If your hair is long it's handy, because the length of your hair will get very foamy with reetha whereas your scalp won't! I use the length of my hair as a "glove" to massage my scalp, so it gets a little more soapy and it washes better.

After you have poured all the water and massaged your scalp and hair well, rinse well.


(3) Conditioning with lemon-water

Slowly pour all the lemony water onto your head and hair, tilting your head back so the lemon juice won't sting your eyes. Comb your hair as you would do with an ordinary conditioner. The hair is easy to comb as the lemon juice makes it nice and soft. Rinse well.

That's it!


(4) Remarks

- Reetha doesn't wash out oil well, so I no longer put oil in my hair (I never did much anyway, but this is a problem for many Indian woman because they are used to putting oil in their hair!)

- The soapy water is cold by morning time, and it may be chilly to pour cold water onto yourself! I live in India where I shower in cold water half of the year anyway because it's so hot, thus it doesn't matter, but in the winter I prefer to tilt my head forward so the cold water won't run down on my body - in which case you have to be extra careful not to put any soapy water in your eyes - it really hurts, your eyes get all red, and it takes a while to wash out...

- You can use apple cider vinegar instead of the lemon juice for conditioning. It works in exactly the same way; instead of the lemon juice simply pour a tablespoon of vinegar (same amount as the lemon juice) in your cup and top it up with water. Pour it onto your hair and head, comb your hair, rinse well.

- It is not actually necessary to condition your hair with lemon/vinegar after using reetha, but the wet hair after washing it with reetha feels kind of "papery" and uneasy to handle. Although the hair feels normally soft once it has dried, I prefer to condition it with lemon water, as it makes it really soft and easy to comb.

- In theory you can reuse the soap nuts 2-3 times more. I find that for hair washing though, they don't work well a second time. So what I do is I keep the used nuts of two washes and then only I use them to wash my hair. In other words, I need 8-10 new nuts but 16-20 used nuts to wash my hair well.

- I wash my hair with reetha (or baking soda) about once a week. In between two washes I massage my hair in plain water everyday as this keeps it clean for longer. (And in India it's a great thing because there is so much dust that it gets grubby quite quickly!) Note that in a hot country like India, half of the year I shower in cold water which doesn't clean the hair as well as hot water! And in the winter I rinse my hair (with hot water) every two days only because I don't feel like wetting it every single day.


(5) Results

- My hair is silky and soft (OK, it always was!)
- It falls a lot less.
- As a result it feels more voluminous.
- It gets greasy a lot less quickly, and when it is greasy it doesn't show as much as it used to.

My dirty hair after 6 days of just rinsing with water, before I wash it with reetha:


It doesn't look too bad when my hair is tied-up, even after a week!

My hair just after I have washed it with reetha:



(6) More information on how to go poo-free:

On how to quit shampoo using baking soda & vinegar:
English:
thehairpin.com
simplemom.net
wikihow.com
Shampoo Free from Now On! - with photos!
French:
jardinamayan.blogspot.com

On washing hair only with water!
Beyond no poo only with water - I have not tried this I have to say...

On washing hair with natural powders, including reetha powder:
(French only)
Joséphine au natur'elle
Poudres pour les cheveux

Comment se laver les cheveux aux noix de lavage ("ritha")

Aujourd'hui est un grand jour pour moi! Et oui, c'est le premier anniversaire de ma nouvelle vie "poo-free", c'est-à-dire sans shampooing, et je suis ravie de ce changement! J'ai déjà écrit plusieurs articles sur ce blog depuis que j'ai arrêté le shampooing (ici) mais ils sont en anglais. Aujourd'hui j'ai décidé d'écrire en français pour tout ceux et celles qui me demandent des traductions...

J'ai commencé l'aventure en utilisant du bicarbonate de soude et du jus de citron, comme indiqué sur la plupart des sites "poo-free" notamment celui-ci (le seul que j'ai trouvé en français). Cependant j'ai découvert après quelques mois (et après 6 ans en Inde!) que les noix de lavage (la ritha) sont un produit local pour moi, et qu'elles servent aussi bien à laver le linge que les cheveux! Aucun site internet n'expliquait comment s'en servir mais j'avais déjà essayé pour le linge, alors j'ai tenté le coup... Les premiers mois ce n'était pas toujours concluant. Parfois mes cheveux étaient magnifiquement propres, d'autres fois la ritha les laissait un peu gras et je devais les relaver après trois jours. J'aurai mis du temps mais depuis que j'ai compris le truc, et je vais l'expliquer ci-dessous, les noix de lavage fonctionnent à merveille à tous les coups. Aujourd'hui je les préfère au bicarbonade de soude, que j'utilise désormais quand il n'est pas pratique de faire tremper les noix la veille de me laver les cheveux, par exemple si je veux me les laver après une nuit de train ou si j'ai oublié de faire tremper les noix.

Au final la période de transition (cf. le site) n'aura pas été trop difficile pour moi, d'autant plus qu'en Inde je m'attache souvent les cheveux car il fait chaud, et que la plupart des Indiens s'huilent les cheveux alors l'effet "gras" ne choque personne ici! Par contre cela aura pris 8 ou 9 mois pour que la difference soit visible: je perds nettement moins mes cheveux qu'avant.

Et donc pour mon premier anniversaire sans shampooing j'ai décidé d'écrire un guide détaillé expliquant comment utiliser les noix de lavage - où du moins, comment je les utilise et comment elles fonctionnent pour moi. Parce que jusqu'ici je n'ai trouvé qu'un seul site internet parlant de la ritha pour laver les cheveux, et il explique seulement comment l'utiliser en poudre. Hors ici je trouve les noix telles qu'elles. Alors en avant pour ma contribution dans le monde sans shampooing!

Note: Je sais que les noix de lavage sont très chères dans les pays occidentaux (ce qui explique que la plupart des sites "poo-free" traitent du bicarbonate de soude), mais on les trouve quand-même dans les magasins bio si vous voulez essayer. Si elles sont trop chère ou introuvables pour vous, j'ai ajouté en bas de la page une liste de sites expliquant comment arrêter le shampooing en lui substituant le bicarbonate de soude. Désolée, la majorité de ces sites est en anglais, mais comme je l'ai déjà mentionné plus haut, celui-ci est en français.


(1) Préparation:

La veille au soir, si vous vous lavez les cheveux le lendemain matin

C'est très simple, mais il ne faut pas oublier de le faire sinon c'est rapé! Si vous vous lavez les cheveux le matin, faites tremper les noix dans un bol d'eau la veille au soir. On lit parfois que l'eau doit être bouillante, mais je ne trouve pas que ce soit nécessaire si les noix vont tremper toute la nuit.

- Mes cheveux sont longs et j'utilise de 8 a 10 noix. Il faut absolument que les noix soient ouvertes avant de les faire tremper, car le savon est sécrété à l'intérieur de la noix. Pour ouvrir une noix coupez-la sur le dessus avec un couteau et cassez-la. C'est un peu dur, mais vous pouvez aussi la casser à la main 3-4 heures après qu'elle aie trempé car elle aura ramoli et s'ouvrira facilement. Il y a un gros noyau noir dans la noix, vous pouvez le jeter, vous n'en aurez pas besoin.
- Ne mettez pas trop d'eau, sinon le savon sera trop dilué et la ritha ne vous lavera pas bien les cheveux. Moi j'ajoute environ 2 cm d'eau dans un bol de taille moyenne, comme sur la photo ci-dessous.



Le matin avant la douche

Vous avez besoin de:
- l'eau savonneuse dans laquelle vos noix ont trempé toute la nuit. L'eau doit être jaune foncée à tendance brune;
- le jus d'un citon dans une petite tasse auquel vous rajoutez de l'eau pour remplir la tasse, comme démélant;
- un peigne propre. J'utilise un peigne en bois que je nettoie régulièrement avec du bicarbonate de soude et une brosse à dents.




(2) Se laver les cheveux avec les noix de lavage:

Retirez les noix de l'eau et gardez-les de coté car elles contiennent encore du savon et vous pourrez les réutiliser plus tard. Jetez les noyaux si vous ne l'avez pas fait avant. L'eau savonneuse doit être jaune foncée à tendance brune comme sur la photo ci-dessus, si elle est trop limpide elle ne vous lavera pas bien les cheveux.

Mouillez vos cheveux. Versez l'eau savonneuse petit-à-petit sur votre tête, en la mettant en arrière pour ne pas que l'eau entre en contact avec vos yeux, parce qu'attention ça pique! Versez un peu d'eau, massez, versez encore un peu d'eau, massez etc. jusqu'a ce que vous ayez massé tout votre cuir chevelu et la longueur. C'est pratique si vos cheveux sont longs, car l'eau savonneuse mousse sur la longueur mais pas sur la tête! Moi je me sers de la longueur de mes cheveux comme un "gant" pour masser mon cuir chevelu avec, afin qu'il y aie plus de mousse et que l'eau savonneuse nettoie mieux.

Après avoir versé toute l'eau et bien massé le cuir chevelu/la longueur, rincez vos cheveux.


(3) Démélant au jus de citron

Versez doucement toute l'eau citronnée sur votre tête et sur toute la longueur de vos cheveux. Attention de bien mettre la tête en arrière pour ne pas que le jus de citron vous pique les yeux. Peignez vos cheveux comme après un démélant ordinaire. Les cheveux sont faciles à peigner car le jus de citron les rends doux et soyeux. Rincez bien.

Et voilà, c'est tout!


(4) Remarques

- La ritha ne nettoie pas bien l'huile, alors je ne m'huile plus les cheveux (je ne l'ai jamais fait beaucoup de toute façon, c'est plus un problème pour les Indiennes car elles ont l'habitude de s'huiler les cheveux!)

- L'eau savonneuse est froide une fois qu'elle a reposé toute la nuit, alors c'est peut-être difficile de se la verser dessus! Je vis en Inde où je me douche à l'eau froide la moitié de l'année car il fait chaud, donc ce n'est pas un problème majeur pour moi, mais en hiver je préfère me laver les cheveux la tête en avant pour que l'eau froide ne me coule pas dans le dos! Dans ce cas faites-bien attention à ne pas vous verser de l'eau savonneuse dans les yeux, car vraiment ça pique, les yeux deviennent tout rouges et ça prend du temps à rincer.

- A la place de l'eau citronnée vous pouvez aussi utiliser du vinaigre de cidre de pomme (ce n'est pas facilement disponible en Inde!) La procédure est exactement la même qu'avec le jus de citron; au lieu du jus de citron versez une cuillereé à soupe de vinaigre (même quantité que le jus de citron) dans une petite tasse et completez avec de l'eau. Versez le contenu sur la tête, peignez vos cheveux et rincez bien.

- Il n'est pas absolument nécessaire d'utiliser le jus de citron/vinaigre comme démélant, mais les cheveux encore mouillés après le lavage avec la ritha sont difficiles à manier. Une fois sec cet effet disparait, et les cheveux sont doux, mais je préfère quand-même déméler mes cheveux avec l'eau citronnée car elle les rend vraiment doux et faciles à coiffer.

- En théorie on peut réutiliser les noix de lavage jusque 2 ou 3 fois. Cependant je trouve que les noix ne sont plus assez nettoyantes après la deuxième fois. Je réutilise alors deux "rations" de noix pour un autre lavage. En d'autres termes, pour 8 à 10 noix nouvelles j'utilise 16 à 20 noix recyclées pour me laver les cheveux.

- Je lave mes cheveux avec la ritha (ou le bicarbonate de soude) environ une fois par semaine. Entre deux lavages je me les rince à l'eau (il faut bien masser) tous les jours, afin qu'ils restent propres plus longtemps. (Et en Inde c'est une bonne chose car il y a beaucoup de poussière!) A noter que dans un pays chaud comme en Inde, je me douche souvent à l'eau froide, et l'eau froide lave moins bien les cheveux que l'eau chaude! En hiver je rince mes cheveux tous les deux jours seulement (à l'eau chaude) car je n'ai pas envie de me mouiller la tête tous les jours.


(5) Résultats

- Mes cheveux sont doux et soyeux (OK, ils l'ont toujours étés!)
- Ils tombent beaucoup moins.
- Ils ont plus de volume.
- Ils se graissent beaucoup moins vite que quand j'utilisais du shampooing, et quand ils sont gras ça se sent au touché mais ça se voit beaucoup moins qu'avant.

Mes cheveux sales après 6 jours de rinçage à l'eau, juste avant de les laver avec la ritha:


On ne voit pas trop que mes cheveux sont sales quand ils sont attachés, même après une semaine!

Mes cheveux après les avoir lavés avec les noix de lavage:




(6) Plus d'informations sur comment arrêter le shampooing:

En utilisant du bicarbonate de soude et du vinaigre:
En anglais:
thehairpin.com
simplemom.net
wikihow.com
Shampoo Free from Now On! - avec des photos à chaque étape!
En français:
jardinamayan.blogspot.com

Se laver les cheveux à l'eau seulement!
Beyond no poo only with water - j'avoue que je n'ai pas essayé...

Se laver les cheveux avec des poudres de lavage naturelles, dont la ritha en poudre:
(Seulement en français)
Joséphine au natur'elle
Poudres pour les cheveux

Monday, 21 July 2014

PIO card bureaucrazy

Today I see the end of my PIO card application, finally. The entire story, which lingered at the back of my mind for over 1 year 1/2 is finally behind me, over and done with, for good!

It might be a tedious read, but I have decided to post a full chronological entry about my PIO card application, because really, Indian bureaucracy is bureaucraZy...

~

December 2012: After a lot of phone calling and internet researching, Vijay and I go to Delhi and attempt to deposit my first file at the PIO card application office of the Ministry of Home Affairs. After going through my file the officer informs me that all my documents were complete, but that I can't apply for the PIO card at this stage because I have a student visa. I needed to be on an entry (X) visa (accompanying spouse) to apply for a PIO! After a few attempts during the following months we give up trying to convert my visa from student to X status, and we decide we will try to apply in Paris when we go to Europe in Spring 2013.

June 2013: We go to the Indian embassy in Paris with a new PIO card application pack, to find out that we can't apply from France because we are resident in India. At least we manage to get my name endorsed in Vijay's passport within a day...

3 September 2013: I send my third PIO application pack (including a demand draft of 15,000 rupees - valid for three months) to the Foreign Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Delhi by speed post.

13 September 2013: I receive the copy of a letter addressed to the Varanasi FRO (Foreigners Registration office), written by the senior officer of the Foreign Division of the MHA, Mr R.. In this letter Mr R. asks the Varanasi FRO to send them a report about me.

20 January 2014: After over 4 months I haven't had any news about my application (despite my vain phone calls to the MHA), so Vijay and I go to Delhi to go to the MHA in person., to find out... that the PIO card application office has been closed to the public! The receptionist says we are supposed to contact them by phone (hahaha!) The only thing we can do now is write a letter and hand it in to the man at the mail counter behind us and he will dispatch it to the PIO card office. My face drops but I write a letter, the mail-man stamps it, I make a photocopy of the stamped letter and off we go...

5 February 2014: I receive the photocopy of a new letter by Mr R. addressed to the Varanasi FRO. In this letter Mr R. reiterates to the Varanasi FRO officer that he should send a report about me to the MHA!!! This means I went to Delhi to find out that the Varanasi FRO officer had just not been doing his work for over 4 months!!!

6 February: I phone the Varanasi FRO to ask the officer if he has received the letter by Mr R. He says he has received nothing (!)

7 February: I go to the Varanasi FRO to show the copy of Mr R's letter to the officer in charge. Before I sit down he takes out the original of the letter onto his desk. This means he was lying to me on the phone, because he was expecting me! He tells me that he did some address checks about me (NB: he knows very well who I am because I have been registering with him every year for the past four years, and he always recognise my voice and my Hindi on the phone!) by coming to my area of town and looking/asking people around if they knew me. He even tells me that he came to my house and my landlord (who is a well-known politician so it has to be the right man) had told him that I didn't live here. Hmmm..... I ask him what to do now? He says I have to get a computerised C-form (i.e. address proof) from my landlord, and a letter from my violin teacher confirming that I have been learning violin with him since 2008.

7 February evening: I ask my landlord if anyone from the Varanasi FRO came a few months ago to ask about me. He says no-one came...

10 February: I go back to the Varanasi FRO with a letter from my violin teacher and the computerised C-Form. I beg the officer to send the documents to the Delhi MHA as soon as possible. He says he will do it within 3 days.

14 February: I phone the Varanasi FRO officer to ask him if he sent my documents to the MHA. He says he did.

A few days later: I realise that my first 15,000 rupee demand draft (of which I have kept a photocopy) was valid for only three months and so it has expired. I collapse wondering what to do - because Indian officers won't work if there is no money involved do they? And of course I need the original back to get the money back from the bank! I try to phone and email the MHA but I don't get any consistent information from anyone.

28 February: I write a letter addressed to Mr R. in the MHA (since he is in charge of my file and supposedly he will know what I'm talking about, right?) explaining that my demand draft is expired, and asking what to do.

8 March: Following a friend's advice I send a new letter to Mr R. with a new demand draft. (My friend said that will probably speed up the application process and somehow I believe her...) I also phone the MHA to inform them that I have sent a new demand draft. The Varanasi FRO officer has given me two phone numbers for the PIO card office of the MHA. Tel no. 1 gets through to a receptionist (I presume but really I don't know) and is relatively easy to get through. Tel no. 2 with an extension number goes through Mr R. or his colleague. That number is just impossible: you have to dial the extension number at least 10 times and you're lucky if you get through to someone... Most of the time they just hung up on you before even answering. I spend time, money, energy mostly to no avail...

Many days during the month of March: I manage to speak to the same officer of Tel no. 1. He tells me not to worry, my expired demand draft will be sent to me with my PIO card. Another time he tells me that my PIO card is ready and will be sent on Monday. Another time he tells me that it is ready but it is awaiting signature by the big officer. After a few days I start wondering if the officer from Tel no.1 talks bullshit and knows anything, so I decide to phone Tel no.2 again and again. After maaaaaany attempts (miracle!) I do get through to someone who tells me he will look at my file and "please phone back in 30 minutes". "Pleeeeeeeease don't hang up!" I think to myself. It's so bloody hard to get through to someone... Sigh. A few attempts later I manage to speak to Mr R. himself (miracle!), who tells me that at this stage the MHA has only decided to grant me a PIO card!!! I am stunned. This means the first guy from Tel no.1 has been lying to me for days, just to make me happy and to get rid of my phone calls. I decide I will never try to phone Tel no.1 ever again!!!

25 March: I receive the photocopy of a letter by Mr R. sent to the Delhi FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) which says that they have decided to grant me a PIO card. Mr R. has sent this letter to the FRRO along with all my application documents, including... the old, expired bank draft (aaaaaaargh!!!) and he requests them to proceed with my application. OK. At least, this piece of information is real. Sigh. But shit! He has sent them my old demand draft!

26 March: I get the Delhi FRRO's number from the Varanasi FRO and phone them. Miracle! That one is really easy to get through, and the guy on the phone is really nice and helpful! After checking my reference number and my address (which means it's all real information, yay!) he exclaims: "Have you not received my letter!? I sent you your old demand draft back! Please send me a new one and I will proceed with your application." AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaargh!!!! But "I did send a new bank draft to the MHA a month ago!" I tell him. "Oh oh... you should have sent it to me, you made a mistake." he replies. Cursing my friend for her advise, I tell him "But I thought if I sent it to the man who was dealing with my application at the time it would be fine!"

A few minutes later: After maaaaaaaany trials I manage to speak to Mr R. of the MHA and I ask him he has received my demand drat which I sent on 8 March. "I never received any bank draft" he answer. "But I checked the parcel number, it reached Delhi on 13 March!" I reply. Blah blah blah. He says he will look for it and send to the FRRO of Delhi.

29 March: I get the letter from the Delhi FRRO with my expired demand draft! Horray! The following day I go back to the bank and manage to get the 15,000 rupees back.

After a few days: It's just impossible to get Mr R. to do anything it seems. He hardly listens to me on the phone, and clearly he has not even tried to find my demand draft. So I go back to the bank, get a third demand draft for 15,000 rupees and send it the FRRO...

Five days later: I phone the Delhi FRRO. The guy has received my demand draft, and my PIO card application will take about 20 to 25 days. Aaaaaaaaaaah........ Sigh of relief. I have nothing to do, he will send me the PIO card to my address in Varanasi (he double-checks my address and is really nice). He will send me back my demand draft no.2 in case Mr R. sends it to him in the meantime... Sigh. At least the application is well on its way (for real!) now! The last issue is I may lose the money from Demand Draft no.2, but at least I will get the PIO card... By the way, my visa expires on 18 June 2014.

In April: I spend much time trying to get through to Mr R. again, to ask him to find and send me my bank draft no. 2. He doesn't listen to me properly. Vijay tries to phone him too but he doesn't listen to him properly either. One time, Mr R. even shouts at me on the phone telling me he has work to do, and then hungs up on me. I give up.

Early May: Still not received anything. I phone the Delhi FRRO to ask him where my PIO card is at. He says it will take another 20 days.

End of May: I phone the Delhi FRRO again. My PIO card is ready and awaiting signature by the big officer. Don't worry, you will get it soon. "My visa is expiring on 18 June" I remind the officer. "Don't worry dear, you no longer need a visa now."

14 June: I finally receive my PIO card in the post, four days before the expiry date of my visa and 9 1/2 months after the start of my application!!!

Horrah! Ok, but there's still a lost demand draft to retrieve and I will certainly not give up! Vijay and I are planning to go to Delhi in July anyway, so we shall pay a visit to the Ministry of Home Affairs then...

A few days before leaving for Delhi, mid July: I try to phone the MHA 7 times, dialling the extension number 10 to 15 times every time and the line dies every time. I waste over 50 rupees of phone credit in the process and give up trying to even speak to someone.

21 July 2014: In Delhi, I prepare a letter to hand in to the mail man at the counter of the Ministry of Home Affairs along with photocopies of all relevant letters and of course a photocopy of the demand draft. In case we're not allowed to meet anyone in charge I'll hand them the whole lot and we'll see how long it takes for them to find my demand draft... Vijay and I reach the Ministry of Home Affairs. At a first counter Vijay explains the whole story to the receptionist. The receptionist is attentive and sends us to the mail-man at the other counter. Vijay explains the whole story to the mail man. Mail man says something to the receptionist and we go back to the receptionist. Receptionist and his colleague listen to my story again, check out my documents. They're quite helpful actually. I have hope. Then Receptionist hands a phone to Vijay and tells him to dial the extension number - the same one I used to dial 10-15 times to get through to anyone when I was lucky. After 2 seconds Vijay speaks to someone in Mr R.'s office on that phone and tells the whole story again. After five minutes the receptionist hands us a special receipt allowing us to go upstairs to the Foreigners Division of the MHA. Horrah! The MHA building is super sleek and modern and clean; we check our bags at security, ask our way to various people in the corridors. Finally we reach the right office, with "Mr R."s name written on the door... I wonder what he looks like! There are quite a few desks and people in this office. One man who sits doing absolutely nothing in front of his computer looks at our receipt and tells us to sit down at the back of the room. We wait 15 minutes. No-one speaks to us, we wonder if they know what we're here for. Then the lazy man tells us that the person we have to see is coming soon, we have to wait. After 5 minutes a very small and skinny man with an angular face comes into the office. He asks us what we want. Vijay tells our story. Skinny-man opens a cupboard and within one minute he takes my file out to look into it. Then he goes to another desk, and less than five minutes later he comes back to us with my demand draft and the letter I had sent with it! "Is that the right letter?" he asks. "Yes!" I exclaim! He doesn't say anything else. I don't know who the skinny man is, I have no idea if he was Mr R.. But Within 5 minutes he has found my demand draft, which means that Mr R. was bluntly lying to me on the phone when he said he had not received my demand draft back in March. It would obviously had taken him no effort and no time to find and send my draft to the FRRO or to myself. The skinny man said nothing to us because he knew he was wrong all the way, right?

Anyhow. I had my demand draft in my hands and I was very happy and relieved when I left the Ministry of Home Affairs, because my 15,000 were not lost - sigh.

And with it the story of my PIO card application ends, finally!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Becoming my mother-in-law's only female company

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