Saturday, February 03, 2007

Visa shmisa

Am currently in Colombo trying to renew my Indian Visa which has been a raffle from start to finish.

I could have done this when I was at home for Christmas, but before I left India, Arun told me not to, because he could definitely get it extended for me. When I expressed amazement and asked if he was sure, he looked slightly hurt and said of course he was, he had a foreign wife and worked in the tourist industry after all. Forgetting my golden rule of, if in any doubt, find out for yourself, I believed him, thankfully, because in truth I really did not want to waste any of my precious holiday at the Indian High Commission in London.

Coming back to India with a visa about to run out I asked Arun what I needed to do to renew it. He forgot that I asked and so no answer came back. Feeling like a nag, I asked again, and he sounded quite pained and irritated that I was asking and with much huffing and puffing found out that, with a probable bribe (!!!!) I could extend it for 30 days only. Well, that was no use because that would leave me in the middle of my parents trip needing to leave the country and renew it, but I only had a few days to sort it out now. So I now had to get to Sri Lanka asap (visa expiring in 2 days time) and be back in time for a friends visit on the 7th and my parents trip starting on the 12th, leaving me a crucial 3 days to get my visa renewed. As we now know, that is not enough.

On our first morning in Colombo, I said to Justine, look I need to get to the HC asap, be bright and breezy, do a little begging/sobbing and get my visa sorted, do you mind if I go on ahead. With not a care in the world, Justine, who wafts through life and manages not to fall flat on her face, said no probs, I'll join you later.

I arrived and the queue was ENORMOUS, out of the building and snaking three times around the forecourt. I remained about 10 from the end for at least an hour which was most irritating, God knows what time the real keenies got there. Finally, at 10.45 I got to the front of the queue which consisted of a series of desks placed in the middle of the room, where someone, prior to wasting the "visa" person's time, simply checked that the forms were filled out correctly. He told me to go and pay and pointed downstairs, away from the room where all the official action seemed to be happening. I was swept downstairs to a large room with about three other people in it. Everyone else seemed to be upstairs queuing for kiosks. Meanwhile, Justine had just arrived and was queuing in a significantly smaller queue than I had been in.

I rather belatedly asked the cashier if it was possible for me to get my visa done quicker. She looked pityingly at me (they see 1000 people per day for visas) and gave me a number to call. I told her about my flight and she pointed again to the number. Is there any chance of it being done sooner? I asked. Phone and see she said. I was clearly not going to get any more answers from her.

Meanwhile, and here is the absolutely infuriating thing, Justine had practically got to the front of the queue. I said I would wait in a coffee shop around the corner for her. One cup of tea and a fresh lime soda later, she comes out and, to give her credit, she was looking slightly embarrassed, said, they told me to come back this afternoon to pick up my visa.


The sodding cow, who has nearly 3 weeks in Sri Lanka and anyway has another 6 weeks left on her old visa went and got her visa renewed in ONE DAY, having queued for about 1/3 of the time and without having made any effort to get it done quicker at all. I was barely able to speak to her for the rest of the day I was so furious. I know it wasn't her fault, but it was SO unfair. Especially as she said gaily, I expect it's because everybody loves Australia. I bloody well don't. And anyway, Australia is the country which shoot immigrants coming in by boat to stop them landing, they are totally paranoid about people coming to their precious, bloody, bastard land. I am never going there. Ever. That'll show'em. It has always been low on my list and now I AM TAKING IT OFF ALTOGETHER.


Anonymous said...

I thought people went to India to become one with themselves. You're doing the opposite - you're beside yourself! So have you got the visa or is the next entry going to be from the Black Hole of Calcutta...?!

Arabella Onslow said...

In India, I am at one with myself, but in Sri Lanka, well that's a different story. Today however, I am lounging by a sea water pool overlooking the Indian Ocean and am gradually reuniting me, myself and I!