Indian Visa Woes

Honestly, you’d think I’d be used to this by now, but the red-tape and whiplash-inducing reversals of the various bureaucracies of the sub-continent continue to infuriate me.

After being told on Thursday that my visa to India had been approved, I raced down to the visa services center to drop off my passport. That done, the nice people at BLS International confidently told me I’d have my passport back by Sunday, and that I could book my ticket with “no problem.”

Now, whenever someone from south Asia says something is “no problem,” that usually means there will be a big f**king problem somewhere that will lead to a screaming match, heart palpitations and then, at the last minute, when things look their worst, a resolution of some kind. Things are never easy. And yet, the fool optimist that I can be — despite my in-built cynicism — I believe these reassurances. I need to believe them. Because for as much as I’ve traveled in this part of the world, I still cannot fathom how ordinary people put up with this kind of behavior from their civil servants. It just boggles my mind.

Anyway, of course my passport was not returned today, and no one at BLS could tell me what was going on. The visa phone number at the Indian Consulate was resolutely busy. None shall pass. So I had to call in a favor with a friend who had connection with the consulate. E. made some calls and informed me that an interview was required because of my Pakistani stamps, and that I had missed my scheduled interview today — on Sunday.

Oh. Of course. The interview no one told me about. “No problem,” indeed.

Did I mention I’m supposed to be flying on Tuesday to Delhi?

So, yeah. My friend, E., and the Indian Consulate say it should only take “a short time” after my interview before my passport is returned. No one can say if that means the same day or what. All I know is, welcome to India! Where nothing is what it seems and no one can tell you what’s really happening. To be fair, it’s not that different from Pakistan, or many other places with odious visa regimes. A lot of government outside the west seems to be somewhat … improvisational.

So what’s to be learned? One, breathe deeply. And regularly. Two, expect this kind of stuff and adapt. Be prepared to spend an extra night or two in a crappy hotel in Dubai. And then realize that ups and downs go together. I’m not sure if this will help bring my blood pressure down, but it’s all part of the zen I’m trying to cultivate.

Let’s see how it goes tomorrow morning at the Consulate.

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