Friday, June 09, 2006

Consular Rhapsody

I woke up at 6 in the morning. Had kept the alarm for 5 30, but perhaps my subconscious mind is still unaware of a visa interview today. Showered, prayed, ate. Left home at 6 45. Dad still asked why, the interview is only at 7 45! But dad, the queues won't disappear. And right I was. At the consulate, there were more than 60 people waiting ahead of me! This was the story at 7 in the morning. So, I had said my prayers so many times now, I needed to find another way to kill time. To find the longest song, sing it. There was a 22 minute song by Jethro Tull, but all i know is the one line 'Thick as a brick' and a little flute tune after that. Wouldn't help. Bohemian Rhapsody... hmmm... i know that one! What was funnier was inside my head, it all looked like a grand stage with a musical going on.

I stood in the queue near the Oxford Univ Press, vehicles passed by, joggers passed by, each with a look 'Hmmm, in a few more years, i will be there too' or 'Ah, these darn kids...They don't know what they're doing' or 'Hope they make India a better place'. Well, it is not like students were the only people there, but still we got the looks.

I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because i'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low
Any way the wind blows, doesn't really matter to me, to me

7 15 on the clock, and the queue started shaping up. Those with the interviews alone moved to the other side of the security gate. The others walked back to the OUP gate. One of the security guards was extremely rude at getting people to stand in line. I had to look down at my feet and check if I had toes or hoofs.

Was wondering if this guy was permanently like this. There were business people, students, old folks, kids in the queue. Everyone was 'rounded up' and brought into formation along the railing outside the consulate wall. Do people really send us all these documents saying 'sure, come on over, we need you here so much!' only to be guided by the shepherd?

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye.
So you think you can love me and leave me to die.
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

So, thanx to an old lady, me and the guys behind me realised that people with interviews at 7 45 can go right ahead without standing in the queue, and we weaved our way through the queue. I must have said 'excuse me' at least about 50 times. Also needed to make sure these people didn't think we were cutting in. An argument early in the morning and that too before an important interview is distasteful, and we didn't want any trouble.

I'm there. I rehearse my answers. I look around. Am I meant to be here? Am I meant to do this? What if all this is only a disappointment?

Too late, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine, body's aching all the time.
Goodbye, ev'rybody, I've got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

After the security check, we were taken to counters and made to sit there. It was not a room, not a building, just open with greenery on opposite sides, security check behind us and the counters in front of us. This is where they give us the visa? Nah, can't be. I waited, and slowly people are called, asked for initial documents, given a folder and directed to the main building. Ah, ok!

The building has heavy doors. And i mean really heavy. It wasn't even push to open! (Maybe we aint welcome there) I had to stand firm and heave the door open with both hands. Not my first time, I had been to the consulate before to register for a visa counselling session. Same kinda door, same trouble. And while standing in the queue to get fingerprinted, there was a yellow line I saw but didn't realise (Happens if you sing too much inside your head, and you get lost in your own world).The couple ahead of me walked upto the counter, and I followed them.
'Psssttt... The yellow line...' comes a voice from behind me.
Oh ye, the yellow line. The one you aint supposed to cross unless it is your turn. When they say don't cross the line, they really mean, don't cross the line! I hopped back to my position, gave an embarassed 'yikes' grin to the fellow behind me who had told me.

Ok, fingerprinted and sent to the queue to face the Visa Officer. There were two couples ahead of me. One wants to visit an old friend in the US, the other wants to visit their son.

He's just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstruosity.
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go.

And the VO says to the former...

Bismillah! No, we will not let you go.
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go.
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go.
(Let me go.) Will not let you go.
(Let me go.) Will not let you go. (Let me go.) Ah.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

The second couple make it through. Then me.
I 20.
GRE, TOEFL scores.
Financial Document.
Oh mama mia, mama mia! Mama mia, let me go!

Documents were checked, questions were asked, answers were given.
'You qualify for a visa, but since you do not have a PC, we'll give you the visa only after you submit it. You can do it by the dropbox, you needn't come here again.'
'Thank you.'

Ah, the PC. My college did it again!

Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me

I collect the documents and leave. Then I realise... he had asked me to submit my DS Application forms along with the PC. But he had kept them. I don't have a copy!!! Gotta figure something out. Come on, I didn't come all this way to lose out at the end, and that too like this! There must be a way. Have to call VFS, maybe even check with the office in person. But there must be a way.

Not quite in a mood for celebration, I can't rest until I get my results and my PC and finally see the seal in my passport. Long way to go...

My father is happy, but isn't smiling. He expected the actual visa. Was worried that my backlogs were interfering so much. My mother was fine, but she also had her concerns. I will do what needs to be done, life will take the course it is meant to.

Mama, ooh, didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

A tribute to Queen, for keeping me alive and undisturbed till the very end. I lost track of how many times I sand the song. I jus know I was standing in one place, swaying sideways, oblivious to the real life around me, lost inside my own theatre.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Pri's bday!

On the night of sunday the 28th May, ravi thought we should do someth to surprise the bday girl. sure, she had invited us all to her place, but that wasnt enough to make it special. he
thought we should perhaps play a prank on her! but what do we do sitting at home on a sunday night? whatever plans we come up with will hav to b implemented between 9 and 12 the next day, coz we had to be at her place by then!

So, think, think...

We even googled it!

Think, think...

Conference with whoever was there...

Think, think...

Finally, we decided we could have a birthday cake with a balloon inside so it'd burst, trick candles, confetti inside balloons to pop over her head. Ravi had more heinous ideas, but no way was i gonna let that happen! And her mom n granny would be around, so couldn't do some other stuff.

Next morn, (the day I finally left home after a month!) the first thing I do is go to the VFS office to change my I20 number. Turns out it was some Memorial Day in the US, hence an official holiday, and this office was closed as well. these guys get the American holidays. As Indians, they would get Indian holidays too, right? And yet they get the work done.

So, it's 10 already. Where do we get the party stuff? Check from Cenotaph Road to Villivakkam...Ravi said the cake shop near house was still closed, and so started to Anna nagar. I stopped at Spencers Daily on Nelson Manickam Road. Nothing. I stopped at Angel's in Anna Nagar. Nothing! I take a 360 and go to Odyssey on the same road. Yes. By this time, Ravi is at Anna Nagar Roundtana. He joins me. Got everything but the confetti. And cake of course. So, off to McRennett from there. They don't make dummy cakes. And no black forrest. Ravi leaves to SS in search of a cake, I go to Shanti Colony for confetti (wrong place, but that was the only other shopping area nearby) and what do I see? Cake Point. Black forrest. Ye baby! Got it.

Hmm, confetti confetti confetti... Not a single fancy store in sight! Finally, found one on the same street as Pri's house! a thread store with lots of chamki and stuff like that. Got it!

Ravi made sure Pri was busy upstairs while we hid the cake in the fridge (well, you can't call it was the only place to put it, in plain sight) and stashed my bag with the goods under her granny's bed. Then upstairs to join the merry women and poor little Ravi had to sit quietly by the side, he had no company, nor a single inclusive conversation! Talk about a ladies' man feeling out of place among ladies!

It must have been around 1 or 1 30. I call Pri to the next room to have some heart-to-heart girlie talk, and Ravi takes the others downstairs to set up the place. We would have been speaking for about 15 minutes when Pri goes to the other room to take a call on her phone. She keeps walking, talking, and looks at what's goin on downstairs. Voices ring from below "Hey!!! Why did you let her come downstairs??"

Pri laughs. She knew about the whole thing. Especially because she went to get us juice, which was in the fridge, in the same compartment as the cake. Some surprise that was! She saw the whole thing coming, even guessed we'll be lighting the trick candles.

She still decided to act surprised. So we sent her upstairs, prepared everything, and then called her.
"Wow, I'm soooo surpriiiiiised!!!"
We still put good mokkai :P

So, candles were lit.
She huffed,

she puffed,

and she blew them all away!!

What she didn't see coming was the snow spray!!! Haha, gotcha there pri!!!

Highlights of the day:

Pri and Ravi fought. This time, coz she wanted him to shut up, so took a big fat roll of tape and tried to wrap it around his face.

But it ended up around her hands, and she had to wriggle out of it!

Pri and her glowing personality... he he

we tested the strength of silky's jelly belly by balancing a plate of jackfruits on it. And what dyu know, it stayed still!

Nothing much happened after that, we were just watching tv, ganging up on mars (he said something to put himself in trouble!) generally chatting, and later called it a day.

Later at night, I got a msg from Pri sayin the day was made really special! That was worth it :)


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