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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Planning a Trip to America ~ Part 7- at Stars and Strips lounge

The day of interview finally arrived. It was scheduled at 10am. I had to go with valid proof of my journey, valid documents, and appointment letter (downloaded from the net.)

I got up early (it said very clearly on the rules page, that if I missed the appointment then I would spell trouble). The first fear that gripped me was what if the alarm did not go on. I know, I know, 10am is not early. But for me it is because I am a late riser. And I had to go to the other side of the city. That means I need to leave two hours early and one hour I would need to get dressed, so the perfect time would be to get up at 7am. I set all the clocks in my house at 7am, plus my mobile phone and also told my two friends to call me to wake me and nobody betrayed me. Morning, at 7am, I was mobbed with too many wake-up calls.

Got dressed up and headed towards south Mumbai. The traffic was too much. Why do they have so many signals on Mumbai road? Or rather, why do they have so many cross-road junctions everywhere? On the days when you wish to hurry, your transport is likely to halt at every signal on the road and you are destined to be caught up in traffic jams. Braving all this hassle, I reached the embassy building at 9:45am, just fifteen minutes before my appointment time. I approached the attendant outside the Visa Application Centre (Tirupati Apartments) and I was directed towards ‘Stars and Strips Lounge’. Two fierce-looking men sat at the desk outside the lounge that checked my receipt of Rs250 and gave me coupons for entry, drink and snack. I was then directed towards the locker room. (As I mentioned earlier they did have a locker room for their distinguished guest, and they had wasted my one full day when I was carrying a camera the other day and nobody would help me) I deposited my handbag, mobile phone and all my belongings into the locker room. I was allowed to carry my wallet and my documents. These formalities took so much time that the bus that was supposed to take me to the other venue (at American embassy) for interview had already left. I was feeling guilty at arriving so late.

I was asked to wait in ‘Stars and Strips lounge’ I looked at my watch, it was 10am. I approached those fierce-looking men, informing them that it was past my appointment time and I was getting late and could he arrange to reach me at the venue that was about ten minutes away. He informed me that I had missed my 10am bus and would have to wait for the next bus. Cursing myself, I entered the lounge and headed towards a small kiosk in the room. There were soft drinks, tea, coffee, cakes, croissants, sandwiches, etc. I had no appetite for eating anything in the morning; I used my drinks-coupon to buy coffee. There were more than fifty people in the lounge, all the aspiring visa seekers, killing time by watching the cricket match on TV. Cricket does not interest me, so I just sat there, staring into the space or at people surrounding me. Young girls praying silently, young men fidgeting with their folders and documents, old men, women, some of them in deep meditation, all hoping that they would not be refused their visa. The atmosphere is very tense and vibrations no good. The time ticks slowly, and at 10;30am the bus finally arrives to transport the next batch of people to the other venue at American Embassy.

To be continued….

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