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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Planning a trip to America - part 8 - Interview.

When I had fixed the appointment time for the interview at 10am, I didn’t know that there would be more than fifty people seeking the appointment at the same time. I didn’t realize that the interview for Visa was not only for Mumbai folks, it also included people from all the consular district surrounding Mumbai from west of India. I had paid Rs250 and had the comfort of waiting in the air-conditioned ‘Stars and Strips Lounge’ at Tirupati Apartments and there was bus facility to transport me to the venue at my appointment time, but those who did not want to pay that amount would be standing in a queue, on the road, outside the consulate. Therefore, when I alighted from my 'Stars n stripes' bus, I was surprised to see hundreds of people standing in a queue that was as long as one kilometer, all standing under no shade, in the hot sun, leaning against the wall for comfort. It pained me to cut that queue and walk in as a privileged client.

I walked into the building, through the glass doors and through security point. Here, they checked my documents again, leaf by leaf, looking desperately for some clues to boycott me, finding none; they let me in after a brief body massage with that metal detector. There was a bigger surprise inside the waiting hall. There were more than hundred people waiting before me. The room was packed with people, all staring at the non-function able indicator on the wall and straining their ears to hear the roll of call. I was directed toward a desk, who again checked my documents, then arranged and returned my passport, appointment letter and large envelop (that would be used for posting the passport if I was approved for the visa) and a token number. There was now another big queue to wait before I could sit down and wait for my turn. This queue was for tracing the ten finger prints.

At 12 noon, I waited for my turn. The number indicator was out of order; people depended on correct pronunciation of the number for their turn. Sometimes there was announcement of one number, and sometimes in groups, they were announced in three languages according to the selection of the people, in Hindi, English or Gujarati, surprisingly they did not announce any numbers in Marathi (Consulate in Maharashtra and no announcement in Marathi? Somebody should protest. hahaaa).

Surprise, can you imagine? Nobody chatted! Everybody was in deep thoughts, looking listlessly, some smiling, some staring and some just praying, but there was no conversation amongst people. Maybe they were equally exhausted like me.

Finally at 1pm I heard my token number announced and I walked inside a cubicle to talk to the officer, seated on a high chair behind a huge glass, talking to me over a mike.

10am was my appointment time; my turn comes at 1pm.

She has already decided that I do not qualify for US Visa because I am single, unemployed (according to them), have no ties attached and is visiting a relative who has a retail business. Chances are that I might make US my permanent home and never return, thus stealing a job that truly belongs to US citizen. My intention of just visiting America as a tourist is not very entertaining to her. I need a handsome bank account and powerful salary slips to show her that I can support myself. She is not even interested in seeing any documents that I had so neatly compiled and was waiting to show her. She has made up her mind. Probably there are certain quotas of refusals per day and it will be easy to include me in that list. I want to tell her that America is outsourcing its jobs in India, why would I want to go to their country to seek jobs? People who live in India have comfortable lifestyles, with live-in maids, and warm loving people. I, for one, have traveled around the world and have never been refused visa before in any country. I have already made up my mind to make Mumbai my permenent home and will never opt to live anywhere else in this world. The only reason one should be refused visa is if it a security threat to their country. I am the most harmless person. I like traveling and like to explore new places. I have also visited America before. During my last trip, I was able to explore only New York, Boston, South Carolina and Albany. This trip I was looking forward to visiting Chicago, Texas and maybe a road trip up to Mexico border.

My mouth is parched. I am hungry and am waiting to end these formalities. I am exhausted and I have no energy to argue.

Moreover, I am not too desperate to make this trip.

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