That was one of the special days of my professional life. I was getting permission to visit USA as non-immigrant. Yes!!! It was my VISA interview day @ Chennai consulate.
I was little tensed and as usual I don’t know why :-). Somehow I can’t take anything casually. There was nothing to be worried about. At the max, they could have rejected my stamping, for which I could have applied again. Also, mine being the H1 Visa, many people had told me that there will not be any issues and there were hardly any rejections. But still I was nervous. May be I had considered the rejection as an personal insult :-).
The day started off with some bad ‘shaguns’. I might had gone through the visa documents about four or five times. Again in the morning was going through them to find that I had not pasted my photo !!!!!. There was no glue/stapler available in the place where I was staying. Thought will buy it on the way. My brother dropped me to the Chrompet railway station, from where I had to go to Meenambaakam stop, my friend would join me there, to go to the embassy. That was my first visit to Chennai and needless to say, I didn’t know the route as well as the language. My brother had told me that Meenambaakam is 3 stops from Chrompet, don’t exactly remember how many times !!! :-). FYI, there were many boards clearly written as “MEENABAKAM” in English at the station. My brother and I had forgotten that I can read English !!!! I counted the numbers and successfully got down at the destination (had successfully forgotten the glue).
I was supposed to reach Meenambaakam by 10.30, but was there at 9.30am. I waited for an hour, but my friend didn’t come. My interview time was 12.15pm. now the tension again started. I waited for another half an hour, staring at the people, getting down from the trains. I was 100% sure that he would turn up and we would reach the embassy on time. But, as you know by now, “tension”. Finally my tension won against my confidence and went out of station to call him (I was not carrying my mobile, as no electronic gadgets were allowed at the embassy and there was no public telephone in the railway station). He told me, it would take another 20 minutes for him to reach the station. May be by identifying the anxiety and tension in my voice, he asked me to take an auto and reach the embassy, which was a 15 minutes route. Even though I told him that I would wait, knowing me better than me, he insisted that I start off. I boarded an auto to the embassy negotiating the fare with my broken Tamil and English. On the way I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t filled a section of my DS-157(native name). Opened the documents again and filled it as autowala took 30 minuted to reach the embassy. I got down and was looking around for the place. Guess what!!! My friend was there before me!! I was so shocked and embarrassed. And there he was, smiling, cool & composed as usual!!! :-)
Then we went on to stand in the queue. There was a long queue, not so long though. But the queue was not moving. There is no shelter, shade or seating arrangement made. One has to stand in the open sun (don’t forget it’s Chennai). As there is no place for the applicants itself, forget about the people accompanying them. We were at the end of the long queue and chatting. There he explained, it is enough if you go 15 minutes before the specified time. The time specified in the invitation letter is to enter the embassy, not the interview time :-((. Even if you are the last one in the longest queue, you will be called, when the turn comes. The afternoon batches are the worst, as they have to suffer the morning backlogs. And that’s what happened. It was 2’O clock when I entered the consulate gate. Not knowing the things properly can cause unnecessary tensions!! :-)
The weather wasn't that bad also. I asked him, whether the people who will be coming to India from US, any other country for that matter, have to undergo the same process. As expected the answer was NO. The next question was “why” and the answer seemed so obvious that I didn’t ask him. He asked me whether I have the water (previous day he had asked me to bring one, as he knew the conditions better, but my laziness didn’t allow me to do so). He told, he will bring one and went off. I was standing there looking at the way he went, wondering by his presence of mind & timing sense, as the security guard was coming from the other end asking the people (other than the applicants) to leave the place!!!
Now the background process “glue” came to front end. I asked my neighbors there. Will they be careless (or over confident!!) as me? They didn’t have. I was thinking about the alternatives and consequences as well. Now I feel I was thinking about that too much because, no one else was there to give me a company. That is, everyone else had their documents perfect. What a human tendency!!! You know that not doing the homework is wrong. But if you are the only one in the class, who hasn’t done the homework, you feel guilty. But if there people to accompany you, by not doing the homework, your morale suddenly gets a boost. Your fear level automatically comes down!!! My friend came back with the water bottle. I asked him if I can get glue inside. I would be dishonest if I tell I didn’t expect him to buy one. But that was only 10%. For the rest, I was expecting an alternative. But as though reading my mind, he went on to buy one :-) . Thank you ….
I again put myself into the thinking process, about that question. Why is that people are crazy about USA? Is it power? Money? Influence? Which is that force, attracting the people from the whole world? No, not sure about other countries, but sure about India. For what people go there, leaving their parents, brothers and sisters? Or is it that people go there because, some of their relatives, friends have gone? The parents feel so proud about their children settled in US than who are here and looking after their family well. How do you take this attitude? Is it because of this attitude growing in the society, we are having a competition among ourselves? Or people go just visit that country? In the same dilemma/confusion I had spent almost two years of my professional life. One day I had called the same guy and during the conversation, he had provided the answer, though not intentional, as I hadn’t asked anything. Sometime it happens in life, you don’t know how you influence or get influenced by people. You might get a solution to a problem in a much unrelated situation or place or person. He hadn’t talked about money or any other high funda words. He had told, these are all different experiences in life which one should have and enjoy. Things had become somewhat clear….
While I was trying to be more clear, my friend came back with the glue. The queue had moved a little and the security was nearby. So he wished me “best of luck” and went off. I stood there to check my luck….