Friday, June 03, 2005

USA, U Dont Need your Ambassadors!

USA is a 3 letter word which brings in a myriad of emotions to Indians ranging from awe or respect, to love or hate all at the same time.If at all there is anythin that can shake up India like no nuke from Pakistan can ever do,it would be nothing but the lowly F1 visa. What may seem to most people around the world as a mere travel document and a inconsequential piece of paper is a potent weapon which can bring the entire Indian middle class to its knees and stir up a debate in the country like nothing else can.So what goes behind this annual visa pilgrimage which any Indian, more so a south Indian has to take once in his life so as to prove that he is atleast worth his salt!!
If there is one topic which figures in any conversation in the numerous mariages or functions that dot Madras ,this should be it. Dont be surpsised to see endless, animated discussions among the gentry / womenfolk of Madras reeling out figures from the INS or Justice Department on visa subtelities which i am sure very few americans can even comprehend. It is not very rare to see our maami's(aunties!) proclaiming their son's feat in pulling off an admission to Stanford or Berkeley and looking condescendingly at the opposite mother so as to say that her son does not have a reason to exist!!.(though he may earn 40000 rupees !!).To take a trip down to the Temple of south Indian meritocracy, the US COnsulate Office in Mount Road, Madras is an experience in itself.
The F1 visa to many indian college guys is nothing but a natural extension of their existence on this planet, or thats what is drilled into them right from their childhood.For the lucky (rich) few who can pay up at Stanford for their undergrads, India exists only on the map. To the majority of the janta the trip to the Promised Land comes only after their undergrad in India.After coming up with some colorful SOP's and recommendation letters, they know their time of reckoning is just about to come. After cracking the GRE and romping home past TOEFL(which is a mere formality to many Indians) , the only thing that comes betwen them and their ultimate goal is the iron gates of US consulate, and its presiding deity, the Visa Officer!
The months leading to the actual application of visa can be traumatic, nerve wracking to the applicant , but to an outside observer it could be nothing but plain humor.For the student, the options could be no less tragic.If he were to ever be counted upon as a worthy soul good enof even to exist he needs to have the US visa stamped on his passport atleast once.The US Consulate officers from the US of A are shocked beyond words when they first see the frenzy outside their offices and buildings. Poor guys.. they give info sessions,seminars, hold group discussions, write in newspapers, but what perplexes them is however detailed an info they may provide, the visa frenzy never seems to subside. They come up with every scheme in the book, drop box, slotted interview schedules, no interviews, pre payment of fees, but nothing ever seems to lessen the serpentine queues outside their offices, or prevent its officers from being mobbed when they meet the public.
AN entire economy in the city thrives on this yatra for their existence. From baggage manufacturers, to sly leather coat manufacturers, from banks to financiers, to even the lowly notaries evrybody have their place in the sun during this season. What is never lacking during this 'festive' season, is the tons of rumors clad as advice, news clippets and information.The touts and the police officals outside the visa offices have their share of fun too, with bulk booking and blocking of positions in the queue outside the visa office.The sight of the nervous students and their more nervous parents is something that mite resemble the French waiting their turn at the guillotine during the Revolution.What strikes most is the preen and the unadulaterated look of accomplishment at the faces of the people who come out of the visa offices after having darshan of the visa offcier whose blessings have resulted in the prashad of the visa on their passport !!!.
Hmm.. now only if the policy wonks in Washington knew, that their visa had such a power they should have known by now that it doesnt require the heavily built Armitage to make India listen, but just the small stamp on the passport of millions of Indians !!!


Blogger lost in thoughts said...

haha good one. hilarious :) and so true.

April 20, 2007 7:20 AM  

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