Friday, March 16, 2007

At the consulate

This post should have published on 2/18/2007, but the technology gods were not friendly.

So, after much handwringing and lectures from all family members and friends who were aware of my enormous gaffe, I finally made it to the US consolate in Madras (Chennai). I don't know what I would do if spies had been chasing me, about to murder me, because you have to get thru the doors. The doors are humongous bulletproof metal plates with electronic locks, kinda like prison, I guess. And the gate keepers are not Marines as I had hoped, but ordinary everyday Tamilians. Much time was lost being understood by the Tamilian guards and, I think, their "urgent" speed is much slower than the American "urgent" speed.

These same Tamilian guards seranaded my daugher with "Anjali, Anjali" - which was a hit Tamil song a few years back, while we stripped ourselves of anything electronic, cosmetic, or otherwise interesting. Even the bubble solution with which I had hoped to keep my daughter occupied had to be kept with the guards.

To my gratification and my father-in-law's horror, there were quite a few other Americans in a similar situation - lost or stolen passports. "People are dying to get this passport and you people can't be bothered to keep track of where you put them!," my father-in-law admonished me and the room thru me. For an Indian to lose their passport is to go thru a lot of emotional and physical pain - unless you have a connection. You have to stay up all night and get in line for the Passport Office before they open, then the "peons" in that office send you on a treasure hunt of bureaucracy unparalleled in the civilized world. Again, I am thankful to be American.

I had brought everything needed except my husband. In order to replace a minor's passport, both parents are required to appear. Normally, I would have gotten the passports within 45 minutes, and been invited to peruse the American Library while I waited. Now, without the hubby, they would wait a day for his permission and have it hand delivered to me in Bangalore on Saturday morning. Even this is cause for envy from my Indian-passport holding circle.

There was a man, a little older than myself, there to replace his stolen passport. The Passport Officer said, "Wow, that's like the 4th passport this month getting stolen in Mysore." I had kinda wondered what this guy would be doing staying in Mysore, which is more of a temple town than a bustling commercial metropolis. My father-in-law had a ready answer - "Staying in Mysore?! Huh, he probably sold it for some charras, since he knows how easy it is to replace."

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