Saturday, April 14, 2012


I was driving faster than I should have. But it was 2:05 PM.  The visa office stopped accepting applications at 2:30 PM. Having never been there before my eyes darted back and forth from my watch, to the street signs that passed in a blur, to the numbers I found indiscriminately placed on building façades, back to the clock on my dash . There it was! On the left side of the street was a number I had been looking for. I was on the wrong side of the road. The time was 2:10 PM. Squeezing the steering wheel, even harder than I had been, I pulled hard to the left and made the U-turn in the face of oncoming traffic. Seeing no flashing lights and hearing no crunch of metal and plastic nearby, I breathed out for what seemed like the first time in the hour I had been on the road. As usual, I had left too little time to do too much that was too important to leave to another time.
Getting a visa to visit India can be a challenge. First, there are several ways to obtain a visa, none of which are particularly convenient. I chose the easiest; the online application. One simply follows the instructions by filling out and submitting an online form. However, that is only step one. Next one must deliver one's passport, a printout of the online form (together with picture of one's self in a particularly precise and unusual size) and, of course, the necessary fee ($83.75), to the nearest, but never convenient, visa processing office. Of course, one could submit the application by mail, but given that we are departing in just over two weeks, that seemed unnecessary risk.
Entering the parking lot, still driving too erratically, something seemed to be wrong as I screeched to a stop and jumped out. There was only one car parked near the door to the store front office. Quickly, I strode through the door, noticeably breathless as if I had run all the way rather than driven. Other than the two people who were being served at the front counter, there was no one waiting. The several dozen empty chairs filled the room in rows suggested a lack of customers was rare. "Is there still time to submit my visa application?", I asked the security guard sitting on a folding chair at a folding card table adjacent to the front door. He nodded and took the application form from my hand, which was shaking so much from the adrenaline rush of getting there that I looked like I was fanning the elderly gentleman with the papers. He carefully took the photograph that I pulled from my pocket, spread glue on the back from yellow glue stick and pressing it into place as he began reading my online-completed visa application. He didn't get far before his eyes stopped and he blurted out, "You will have to redo it." His voice was military and clipped, clearly communicating he meant business. I asked why my application was being rejected, before I even made it to the front desk. He pointed the long nail of his index finger to the second line entitled "Name". Naturally enough, I had written "Robert". Being under the line entitled "Surname", where the single word, "Kuhn", had been inserted, "Robert" seemed the only logical thing to put down. "It must be the same as your passport", he stated emphatically. I am sure that I reacted equally emphatic when I replied, "It is!" However, he was quick to rebut my assertion by pointing to my passport where my second name, "George" was printed. How was I to know that the singular "Name", actually meant "Names". I was angry, deflated, and immediately filled with self-condemnation as I imagined the much slower drive home, thinking of the time that I had wasted, driving frantically for no reason.
But no sooner had I begun these self-defeating recitals than the security guard said, "They can help you complete the form". He opened the door and pointed toward a sign 20 feet away on the sidewalk that read, "VISA ASSISTANCE PROVIDED". "Hurry", he said.
Breathless again I arrived at the nearby door to find a notary public ready, for a mere $20, to complete the online visa application form, yet again, make a copy and send me on my way. I arrived back at the visa processing center at precisely 2:28 PM. Despite the fact that no one was waiting, the security guard handed me a small piece of paper with a number 036 stamped on it. "0-3-6", the young woman at the front counter called before I had a chance to memorize the number. I automatically looked down at the number held in my hand before I realized that I was the only customer in the room.
I was shaking rather badly by the time I made it up to the counter. My thoughts were racing. "What if they think I am afraid, have something to hide, and am I deserving of rejection for that reason alone?" I decided rather than tell the visa-checker that I had Parkinson's disease I would wait. I handed her my newly minted online visa application form with my photograph re-pasted on the new form (having been plucked from the defective application form before the glue had dried). She pushed the form back at me and reach for the numbered piece of paper I had in my hand. Then she took my application and passport, giving me a small receipt instead. She nodded when I asked her, "That's it?"
Supposedly, it only takes a few business days to get my passport back with my storied visa stamped on an empty page. That is, if there is no further deficiency. If there is, I truly will be out of time and more than breathless.

1 comment:

  1. may the trip be smooth..breathe more speeding..blessings for a safe and
    wonderful trip