Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The revelation

We were allocated back to counter seven. But lunch time had kicked in. It was 1300. The counter would again be alive after an hour. 

We looked around the hall. A few minutes ago it was bursting at the seams with so many anxious Indians . Now there were only a handful of us.

There were 2 ladies who seemed from the Middle East . They were looking for an emergency visa to India . There was some bottle neck to the process. They were really getting agitated . I has heard them getting into an altercation with the official at the visa counter. I even heard one of them say they would never ever want to go to that country if not for the exigent conditions. I felt sad that my country was being criticised but then I had no idea what they were going through . There was another  elderly couple I think who we're looking for the remains of some one. They were also having some issues. There were people who were not very educated and were having trouble navigating through the web of officialdom . People were  very critical of the whole procedure and the way things were progressing . I somehow did not find any of the officials rude or standoffish. We the hapless souls with our most important documents lost somewhere or looking for very important documents to get something done maybe reminded them of quintessential Indian predicament . 

As I sat waiting for the lunch hour to get over , I wished  everyone present there return with whatever they were looking for - an emergency visa, a document to collect last remains , an emergency passport, whatever. 

Finally lunch hour drew to a close and the person manning counter 7 returned. He heard my need to get details of the police verification that happened for my passport renewal . He went ahead and got the details. Some documents seemed to be missing in my application. We had no idea how. They had tried to get in touch with me but since mobiles are disallowed during office hours at my work place they were not able to get through . 

He asked us if we had the original marriage certificates . We nodded yes. He asked if we could show we felt like idiots when we said we hadn't brought it. The outcome of his wish to see our work permits was also the same. We felt awful at having come all the way but not having  the documents . He said I could come with the documents and the passport would be ready in a week!

We did not believe what we heard.What about   all the horror sagas on the Internet . All this  seemed too good to be true did nt it?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Such a long day

We got our tickets done . 8 hours of travel and our plan of keeping worse case scenario of 6 hours at the Consulate made it one long day of 14 hours. The night before I packed some sandwiches , fruits and packets of chips. Amma had never managed chiyaa for this long. We suggested her to take the kid to a friend's house nearby in case she got too over whelming. 

We started off at 645. Literally ran and caught the bus at 720. Thankfully I had my kindle for company and was reading the oh do fabulous book - family matters. I never had to make a note of time .

Birmingham was a new city for us. Weirdly the place we were dropped had no cabs in sight. Google maps came in handy and the expert map reader in K did one fine job :) Finally we reached the consulate. The entrance looked desolate and spic and span! Would we be the only people and be granted access immediately to the authorities, would get an update or even maybe the passport? Sounds tooooo good to be true isnt it? Such ludicrous things do not happen even in movies now a days.

The security personnel at the entrance asked us which counter we were interested in going to. We gave him a blank stare. He decided for us. Ok goto reception counter 0 (!!!) and ask which counter you may need to goto . We nodded acquiescence . 

We went to counter 0 and I said in the most sympathy evoking tone 'I had applied for my passport 2 months ago and there have been no updates . Where might be able to get any ' . The lady at the desk asked if we had applied in person. We told no by post. Her face could barely conceal shock, horror and utter hopelessness. Still keeping a facade she got her bearings and asked us to go back and ask a ticket for counter 7 from the security person at the entrance . K went to get the token and I turned around to see a sea of Indians . Yep. The room was full of Indians. It was mini India literally . All the tales of not being able to talk to an official, the pushing, pulling, pandemonium breaking queues arguments - everything that I read on the Internet came flooding to be. I geared to wrestle with my fellow countrymen and women . K came with the token and we waited for our token number to be called. 

We were able to bid our time by observing people around. Every body looked frustrated and depressed and harried. People had come with kids and babies. They were having a tough time handling the little ones . The room was filled with books which even the authors would not  dare to read- biographies of  national leaders , treatises on treaties signed by India with other nations , books on history and on general a waste of space. We played  a guessing game as to which region of India some people might be from. We also saw some boards with OCI written. We tried guessing what that might mean. Other Consular Information? But why two separate booths for that? Other Citizens of India?  Why would anyone want citizenship of India  after renouncing it?( It turned out to be Overseas Citizenship of India)  K kept asking some real silly questions like what is the procedure for dual citizenship etc as if I was the external affairs minister or something . 

Finally our token number was called. We went to the counter and I repeated my question in the same sympathy evoking sad tone. The person checked something on the computer and said its 'pvr' case. ????? Whaaa? 'Pvr police verification . Please goto counter 0 and meet the Passport Officer'. That seemed like progress . 

We went to counter 0. I put on my fake tone again and asked her to meet the Passport Officer. She scribbled my name on a chit and asked me to wait and she would call me. I repeated my name close to 5 times and asked her again and again and again if she had got it right. She must have surely thought I was a bit of a thick head .

We commenced our wait to be called again . Every person and his dog was being called but for us. I was tempted to go and stand when the name being summoned was clearly Gurminder Singh and Afzal Sheriff. :( why was my name not being called???? The clock was ticking towards lunch time and I was inching towards despondency . I went and actually stood at the counter window. One official came up and asked what was I standing for, to which I said that I was supposed to be meeting the PO. He asked if someone had written my name. I acted as of I did not understand. ( dumb) (determined not to forsake my place in front of the window ) . He asked some 7 times after which I succumbed to pressure and confessed that someone had written my name. Thou shalt be summoned he proclaimed. I hung my head and joined K and his imaginative question bank. 

Finally I was called and an elderly gentleman heard my summary (again in the sob story tone ). He revealed that the police official after processing might not have updated my records which had resulted in my case not being processed further . He asked he to goto counter 7 and get the details of the date police verification happened etc. 

Counterrrrr 7 here we come (again) ..................

Friday, June 7, 2013

Well begun and half done?

My passport was due to expire in September this year. We are the ones who hate to be on the wrong side of law. So promptly in February we initiated the passport renewal process . There was a load of document with the old passport and some photographs which was to go to the Consulate General of India . We got the documents ready and sent them across. 

The time span for new passport was given as a week. We waited all enthusiastic for a new passport. 

Last year we had applied for Chiyaa's passport. It had taken close to 45 days to come back though the time scale in the Consulate website said a week. This year for mine we expected same sort of delay . 

One month went by. No passport . No problem . Things take time more so when you are expecting an Indian agency to take action. 

Another month went by. Now we started getting the hebbie- jebbies. I started reading up stuff on the Internet as to how long it generally took an Indian passport to come back. Trust me I was privy to some brutal stuff. There were people who had waited 15 days, 3 months, 7 months and the goriest of gory saga was that of the guy in this blog. TRUST ME I broke into cold sweat when I read his blog .   

I asked my dad to ask at the Bhubaneswar  passport office in case they had any clue since that was the place of issue of the original one . He too met a dead end. I read up that subsequent passports also went through the police verification process. We decided to try and inquire at the Chennai police station (since my permanent address is the Chennai one ) Yea I tell you I am all over the place :( The sub inspector told that the passport had not yet come . An acquaintance of ours who has an international travel agency reprimanded us for having sent the documents through post. He also suggested that renewals especially from overseas took a long time . Something like 9 to 10 months too!!!!

It was like a tight rope act. 10 months = time for the visa renewal. No passport = no visa renewal = ?? They cannot even deport me cos you see no passport? Or would UK border agency step in and make sure I have a passport so that I can be deported? The possibilities seemed endless !!

In crucial moments I usually take a chill pill. But such a pill was elusive too. I could not take it anymore . We decided we would make a trip to the city that housed the Consulate (a pretttttyyyyy longggggg trippppp) Before that as a last resort we decided to consult a friend who lived there. In case he could visit the office /gather any information . His reply to our email started with the words 'sorry to be the bearer of bad news but...' He narrated his tale of woe and trust me it would have made Ramsay brothers cry.

Tired of these via medias we decided to get to the horses mouth. 
Birmingham here we come.............................. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Family matters

I am a big fan of Rohinton Mistry. He writes about the misery in life the drudgery of middle class Indian households and the futility of dreams. I am an optimist but still reading him makes me shudder back to reality. He does leave me sad but then it is not the depressing sadness of all hope lost. It is the sadness one would feel if one was unaware of the concept of being happy. (Did any of it make sense ?) 

Well if it didn't forget my rambling . Mistry does strange stuff to my head. 

This is the story of Nariman , 79 year old suffering from Parkinson's . He dwells with his step children Coomy and Jal. They tolerate each other - everyone has misgivings about the other . But then being in a family is many a times a grin and bear affair. Coomy and Jal's half sister Roxana is the thread that binds them all together. But her dire financial conditions render her helpless most of the times. The story takes a different turn when Nariman fractures his leg. Here commences the game of passing the buck . We are lead into the murky past of the Contractor family. 

Roxana 's husband Yezad is the angle of bravado. He epitomises the spirit of 'never give up'. But is his resilience rewarded? Roxana and Yezad 's children Murad and Jehangir have a difficult childhood. Their best days are when their dad whistles or mom cooks some thing delicious or setting up a tent in the balcony . But does their childhood survive the erosion at the hands of economics?  

The author spins some subsidiary stories around Mr. Kapoor the pseudo intellectual , Daisy the violinist dreaming to be a virtuoso, Edul the ambitious handyman. 

At the heart it is the story of the struggles of Nariman and his children. 

What is like most about the book (and the author in general) is his language. He is not a Shashi Tharoor who mandates the need of a dictionary nor is he a Chetan Bhagat who makes you feel like gifting him a copy of Wren and Martin . Rohinton Mistry strikes a fine balance( much like his beautiful book :) ) He writes about India and I love books set in India and I adore Indian authors :) People may moan that he himself being a migrant to Canada , has lost the authority to criticize the state in his home country. But I feel the apple does not fall far from the tree. He writes about  things which I feel are personal to him. He writes about things close to him and he writes about them with a passion. 

The book is captivating and a total page turner. It dwells a lot on the care of an old and infirm person. It brings to light the hardships and resentment in doing so and the emotional guilt in not doing a proper job. It does not preach the correct approach it does not chastise anything. The book just puts the spotlight on some ugly uncomfortable questions .

I could go on writing and advocating Family Matters. The sweetest songs are indeed the ones that tell of our saddest thoughts.