battle of the beaurcracy round one

August 16, 2007



I have just begun a 1 year exchange program at the University of Pune, India.  This is part of my degree (Bachelor of International Studies at the University of New South Wales) and I will be studying Politics at Pune, a mostly English-speaking university in the state of Maharashtra, near Mumbai.


Introduction to India:

The first few days in India were far simpler than anticipated, though we didn’t really leave room for mishap in Mumbai.  I felt glad but a little ridiculous as Erin and I were shuttled from airport to swish hotel to bus station the next morning, with a brief pause in which we happened across the Gateway of India (very appropriate).  Showers with water pressure and hot water were savoured though, as was the air-conditioning and air of relative serenity that Hotel Fariyas offered.  Bus ride to Pune was highlighted by a gratuitous, lengthy and loud Bollywood movie.


Battle of Bureaucracy (Lucy v. B):

Upon arriving in Pune the administrative parody commenced.  Initially I was feeling quite confidant, even triumphant re. my bureaucratic exploits, but this has rapidly soured into passive aggression (and some times just aggression).


Bureaucratic Battle #1, Lucy – 1, B – nil

Our first administrative duty was to enrol at the University of Pune.  The International Student Centre (or Cell as the sign forebodingly stated) was teeming with people queuing, pushing, crying, waiting.  There is no help desk, not even a help post-it, and no definitive answers to questions.  Erin and I were floundering.

Enter Mr Romeo_Juliet…

Mr Romeo_Juliet is a young Afghani student with a corny email address.  He had been through the whole soul-destroying process the week before and decided to help us through it while he waited for some forms to be processed (by processed I mean signed and by signed I mean hours of waiting so some arbitrarily designated person can flick a pen over your crucial documents and open sesame).

Mr Romeo_Juliet raced us through the whole complicated procedure.  What could have been a nightmare of Kafkaesque dimensions became a concise (if sweaty and confusing) process.  He herded us past queues, into hidden offices, over obstacles and through short cuts.  He took us straight to who we needed to see, and made sure we filled our forms out x 12 (all our hand cramping appeared to be in vain as all but 4 of those painstakingly handwritten forms seemed compulsory yet entirely redundant).

So enrolment was initiated without a hitch thanks to our Shakespearean saviour…


Bureaucratic Battle # 2, Lucy – 2, B – nil

Sans companion Erin due to illness I embarked solo on my second administrative mission – registering with the police.  I had my authoritative face on for this task as numerous sources had lead me to expect the worst of paperwork parody that India has to offer.  The office in which foreigners go to register was not an uplifting sight.  It was packed, almost floor to ceiling with musty piles of paper and even the sunlight entering the room seemed sluggish and mildewed and, like the International Student Centre at uni, it was packed with hoards of tearful/indignant/impatient young people.

In I marched, armed with every document they could possibly require in quadruplicate, and my smooth bribery technique (courtesy of India, friend not country) which consists mostly of cash and the subtle line – “do you want to see Ghandi smile?” (a smiley picture of Ghandi is on most Indian money).  To my total bewilderment it was all over in less than 45mins, with minimal arguing and free of charge.  I skipped out of the police station feeling triumphant and optimistic, the score was 2-nil and it seemed like a good omen…




Bureaucratic Battle #3, Lucy – 2, B – 1

My third task was to present my processed enrolment form to the Department of Political Sciences in order to receive yet another necessary form.  I waltzed into the Arts Building, asked for directions to the Politics Department and was pointed in precisely the wrong direction (bad omen?).

After finally finding my destination I presented my enrolment form to the man manning the desk (name: Shah, present status: mortal enemy), to which I received a mumbled response.  I eventually translated this into an instruction to go and pay Rs.4,200 (about $120) in tuition fees.  This was something I was not required to pay and I had the letter from UNSW to prove it.  The delightful Shah informed me that he did not care what my letter said and that I should go to talk to someone else somewhere else so that at some point they could call him and tell him something.  This someone redirected me to another someone and another someone and then, after excessive amounts of queuing, back to Shah.  Finally Shah took me to the head of the department, a formidable woman named Madame Pandit.  All in the space of 2 minutes Madame Pandit listened to the situation, told Shah to stop being an idiot and to give me the form I required.

I felt smug and victorious when Shah deflated and handed over the precious form.  I realised that the pinnacle and extent of his power was that he had the desired form in his desk drawer.  Then I realised that that was enough power to keep me waiting and queuing and arguing for 5 hours, I had missed lunch and the sun was almost setting.  Then I felt like a stiff drink/punching bag/scapegoat.  Luckily for those around me I promptly got lost somewhere on campus.  This was not such a bad thing as the uni grounds are very green and serene and so by the time I found someone who could offer directions that were correct I was feeling much less violent.

That’s about it so far.  We’re staying in a fairly nice hotel, searching for a flat + flatmates, waiting for uni to start on Monday.  I would describe Pune as a good place to live but not necessarily to visit (not much in the way of photo ops but some really good restaurant/bars and seems like a nice uni community. (Though do not let this discourage those of you planning a visit, you would have the insiders guide to Pune).  Erin is recovering from her illness after a few days of r+r and I found a good homeopath with an awesome handle bar moustache and magic sugar pills a-plenty.






4 Responses to “battle of the beaurcracy round one”

  1. da.siddharth Says:

    i just came upon ur blog and visit to india …wow..i simply admire ur creative writing…i am studying car design in italy, i m from india …i agree with wht u say about the difference in europe and indian lifestyle…it feels so empty somehow here..i miss india..i believe its the people around u that matters not the place or the place is also important …hmm ..i m confused now..anyways i m not a good narrator…it wud be nice if i cud catch u in facebook …anyways thts my drop in..if u like..ciao

  2. Abdul jabbar Says:

    hi, my name is abdul jabbar i am an architect i am from bikaner you have visited in bikaner i have seen your pictures . i want to know something about you if you dont mind if you will come again in bikaner then please call me i would like to show you my complete city my cell no. is 0091-9251721430 and my email – and my address is near hussaini masjid badi jassolai bikaner, thanks . waiting for reply

  3. sivasakthi Says:

    Hi godess evan

    read your article. really good. its really unfortunate that you didnt visit south india……if possible make a try next time.

    good day……

    with love

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