Sunday, February 22, 2009
What is the meaning of this?
Naturally, we run into a few things we don't fully understand here, in our adopted home of Vadodara. For instance, this possibly abandoned carnival ride, in which each rider sits on Santa's lap, stands in the back lot of a low traffic business proposition called the Tibetan Refugee Bazaar. I did see one vendor who looked Tibetan. Lee and I saw some other inscrutable figures there, these giant plastic army men.
I think these are statues in honor of the public servants who designed the liquor laws in Gujarat. Not one to be blocked by the officious of any stripe, I did return to the office of Prohibition and Excise carrying the fragile dream of obtaining a license to buy alcohol. Have you noticed that my initials are the same as Josef K?
The day of the previous post, I left the prohibition office with a list of three requirements. First, I needed to visit the State Bank of Baroda and pay my license fee. The autorickshaw dropped Ben, Lee, and me at the door of what looked like the State Bank of Baroda. We entered, passing the rifle armed military presence, and were told by an english speaker at a desk that, no, the bank we wanted was three buildings down. We walked for a while, seeing nothing that hinted at another State Bank of Baroda, went into a sporting goods store and bought a soccer ball. Then we walked back to the bank to ask again. This time the english speaker sent the rifleman out to the street with us and he pointed in the direction we had tried. We tried again and saw nothing, so we crossed the street, to see if it was easier to spot from there. Ben found it, hidden by a Western Union sign, second story location.
We went in and were directed further upstairs. The right place. I paid and the clerk stamped my application and Wendy's. We returned to the excise office.
Though rubber stamps had been applied to both sets of forms with the clear pleasure of authority, it turned out that only one license fee had been paid. Wendy's. Wendy was four hours away in a weaving village. By this point I had developed a complex relationship with the clerks in the excise office. Though they had seemed pleased or amused to see me again, one actually prayed that we could get this business finished. I know he was praying because I asked. They crossed out Wendy's name on the officially completed form, and passed it around the office. My clerk asked if I had my passport. No I didn't and showed him his own note which listed Passport Copy as point number three on list of things needed. I pretended to pound my head on his desk. O.k. Ok. The copy was good enough.
The last step was to get the supervisors's signature. Oh, he was out to lunch. We all laughed, except for Ben and Lee who were out in the hall because they couldn't take it. So I went out in the hall and waited. Ben and Lee left. When the big man got back from lunch, a minion ran the documents in and they came back signed. I never actually saw his face. His office used to be the end of a hallway, but it was blocked off by a partition wall attached with mending strips. I guess he had his own window in there, maybe an air conditioner bought with kick backs.
I thanked everyone in the office and exchanged nods and smiles. I salute the answered prayers of a clerk.