Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Indian Stamp

It's a common joke that when the British ruled India, they introduced bureaucracy, and when they left, the Indians perfected it. And what perfection!

Ty has been trying to lease an office space for several months. After negotiating basic details and the price, he had to sign a Letter of Intent stating officially that he wished to negotiate a lease and listing all of his requirements. The owner responded and signed saying what he would be willing to do. After that was agreed upon and validated on company letterhead, a copy of his passport, his visa, and a photograph were added. THEN the actual lease agreement could be drawn, checked by lawyers, and sent away to be stamped.

All along we've heard about the Company Stamp. Every company needs one and usually only one. Apparently it is a powerful tool that validates a document and ours is held in Delhi with the accountants. So every time we need something stamped, which is surprisingly frequent, we rush the papers to Delhi and have them expressed back. With the lease signing pending, and lots of stamping to be done, the Company Stamp was hand carried and put in Ty's possession. I expected something grand. I imagined it as an official seal pressed into the paper. This is what arrived:

With the pitiful stamp in hand and the lease signed, the next step was to register the lease. To do that, both parties, and all their brokers, had to appear in person together at the registrar's office in the district where the owner's lease was originally registered. Thankfully these legal offices appear to be open 24/7. Our appointment was at 7:00 pm across town and by 7:30 pm an Indian miracle occurred as everyone had finally arrived for the thumb print to be added next to the photo.

The all-important stamp was produced and flourished without any of the pomp or circumstances that we had hoped.

The lease is now completely official! We can proceed to the next bureaucratic hurdle - the Foreign Resident's Registration Office (FRRO) where we can apply for our Personal Account Number (PAN) and finally, finally get cell phones and a bank account. I'm pretty sure at some point next week, our registered lease will end up in one of these many "files" that overflowed from every possible corner. This one was in the waiting room where the ever present cricket game was showing.

As we left, Ty said, "Wait! I need to get the company stamp back. I don't want to forget that!" To which our broker laughed and said, "Don't worry! I had one made last week so I could stamp things."

Where there's Indian bureaucracy, there's an Indian way around it!

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