Bureaucracy and lunacy

Darjeeling Travel Blog

 › entry 21 of 28 › view all entries
Welcome to India

Having arrived from Kathmandu by bus at the Nepali - Indian border I was greeted by a rather icy Indian border official, though I know that Indian border officials have the tact of the Wehrmacht but this one was definitely applying for the Gestapo, who gestured me to put my backpack outside his office to keep his office "clean" of all unwanted elements (read people that disturb him). He then started to ask me what I wanted, which was a bit obvious to me standing at the Indian border post with my Indian visa in my hand. After a ridiculous and meticulous long investigation of my passport he reluctantly lifted his stamper and gave me another of his sighs before he put the entry stamp in my passport and I finally entered India.

Little did I know this was just the beginning or "kinderspiel" compared to getting my free Sikkim permit in Darjeeling.

One of the many crowded alleys leading up and down the hills
Darjeeling itself is a nice little town on the slopes of a few steep hills which makes it a perfect resting break from all the heat on the Indian subcontinent. Unfortunately for me I arrived after the high season which meant that Darjeeling was covered in a day long drizzle and that combined with the almost always present fog makes it one of those places you need to escape from. I had planned my escape to Sikkim and all I had to do was to obtain a free special permit to Sikkim, so if it's free what's so special about it, I thought (later I would learn, that made it so special in India).

As still haven't managed to eat a curry for breakfast, I had to face the Indian bureaucracy with an empty stomach. So I headed for the mayor's office at the far west side of Darjeeling to get my Sikkim permit and find the correct counter in this labyrinth of clerks and counters each of them directing me to another one and pointing me back to the starting point.

Banana seller near the train station
But persistence prevailed and I got to the correct counter and after a few futile formalities, me filling a out a form and the official stamping the application form, I was told to get a second stamp at the Foreigners Registration Office which is conveniently located at the other far end of Darjeeling. Instead of the expected myriad of bureaucracy I was in for some exercise... bring it on.

I made it to the Foreigners Registration Office and back to the mayor's office within 35 minutes and with a feeling of beating the system I presented the official the application form with the two stamps. The official looked irritated at me and pointed at a sign that said: "Opening hours 8am-12am and 3pm-5pm", what the sign should have said was: "ACHTUNG lazy Indian official", and then pointed to the clock that told me it was 12:05.

Playing chess in the train garage
I tried to reason with him but he said he was already stayed open for too long and that I should return at 3pm or wait in the lobby for 3 hours like all the Indians do. Well another one bites the dust... one is humiliated by every other person sitting behind a desk, be it a governmental or private organization but at the end I got my permit and that's what counts.

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Welcome to India
Welcome to India
One of the many crowded alleys lea…
One of the many crowded alleys le…
Banana seller near the train stati…
Banana seller near the train stat…
Playing chess in the train garage
Playing chess in the train garage
Darjeeling
Darjeeling
Waiting for the toy train in Darje…
Waiting for the toy train in Darj…
Its called the Queen of the Hill…
It's called the "Queen of the Hil…
Did you just take a photograph of …
Did you just take a photograph of…
Cooling down the engine after the …
Cooling down the engine after the…
The smoke isnt as bad as it looks…
The smoke isn't as bad as it look…
The famous 360 bend
The famous 360 bend
Girls waiting untill the toy train…
Girls waiting untill the toy trai…
Young women on their way to the ne…
Young women on their way to the n…
Boy watching out the window from t…
Boy watching out the window from …
Woman waiting for the train to pas…
Woman waiting for the train to pa…
Mother and baby trying to ignore t…
Mother and baby trying to ignore …
One of the many shops along the ro…
One of the many shops along the r…
Men doing their usual business
Men doing their usual business
Full speed ahead to Darjeeling
Full speed ahead to Darjeeling
As always theres something happen…
As always there's something happe…
Cant stop munching
Can't stop munching
The ever present fog in Darjeeling
The ever present fog in Darjeeling
Indians do love potato chips
Indians do love potato chips
Girl looking out of the train
Girl looking out of the train
Darjeeling
photo by: philippe84