June 11, 2013

In the Cradles of Corruption: My Immigration Battle, Chapter 2

Kaberi Chatterjee continues her immigration story from India to Canada....  

After six months of waiting, my passports arrived. But that was after I had approached the local police station, ran from pillar-to-post in the police headquarters asking for my file, barely slipped bribing officers, when my innocent face appealed to someone, I guess, and an officer came to my residence for police verification. He “umm…”ed and “humm…”ed quite a few times. I offered him tea and sweets. But didn’t understand he wanted the paper stuff. (Notes! Bribe! The end of all administration, legal, political, social, ethical system in India!)

I smiled a lot and didn’t know how to ask him to take a bribe. I’d never given anyone a bribe. “Sir, would you like a bribe?”… Oopps… Okay. “Sir, please accept this envelop for some sweets for your family.”… That was a rather accepted phrase in India and he couldn’t put me behind bars for giving that. As I thought and posted a smile on my stiffening face, he stood up to leave. THINK! Think girl! How much cash do you have at home?

Some 30 rupees, perhaps. 30 rupees bribe? Gosh! He’ll throw your papers in the gutter and put you in jail! Can I offer him a check? No no. This is illegal. You can’t bribe a cop with a check! As I thought and thought he said goodbye and left.

My sister, also my neighbor, screamed at me. “You should have let me know! I could have come with some money!”

Nevertheless, the passports arrived by courier two weeks from then. It was the beginning of my fight against the corruption. And I never gave another bribe for the next 10 years till I flew out of my motherland.

Now for the application. I needed Rs 30,000. That was a lot of money for me, particularly since I wasn’t working. This time, my husband lent a hand and took a loan from a bank.

I filled up the application forms. Ran for months from pillar-to-post to get my mark sheets, my certificates from college, which were, for some reason, never mailed to us. Then I decided to personally visit the High Commission in New Delhi and deposit my application forms.

I left for Delhi on July 2000.

A friend of mine in Delhi was kind enough to give me a car with a chauffeur to travel to the High Commission office. I reached the office and stood at the end of a short line. The line moved fast and I reached the counter in half-an-hour. I deposited the immigration application forms.


“Ma’m your forms have expired. You need to download new forms from the computer. These are old forms and cannot be accepted,” the girl at the counter told me brashly and handed me back the forms.

I spun around and held myself steady. Then walked towards my friend’s car in a stupor. That was the only time I felt I would give up. Slip. Fall. I was at the end of my tether. I felt was not destined for this.


Kaberi Chatterjee is a journalist, author, editor and now, publisher. She is well-known for her caustic and bold blog, Life and Laughter, and her unconventional published novel “Neil Must Die”. After leaving India in 2009, she now resides in Canada, and is the CEO of Final Draft Editing and Publishing.

Read the final chapter, chapter 3  

If you missed it, click here to read chapter 1.

Previous Guest Posts Authentic Journeys 

Three Ideas for Getting Used to Life in India  
Preparing for Culture Shock in India  

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