Days of our Lives!

November 1, 2007

A day at the Holy Gates

Filed under: My Dayz,Travels — Santhosh @ 2:18 AM

October 31

One thing about the American Consulate – them guys have a nondescript entrance. And I dutifully passed it and entered the church premises next door, walked all the way past the garden, and right through the thattungal thirakkappadum doors when a kind lady enlightened me with “America ku ticket vangura aapiceaaa? Adhu pakkathu building pa“. Two guys with huge thuppaakkis glared at me from 40 feet above when I tried to give a thought to scaling the church wall and so jump right onto the America kaarans. So much for the creativity that my company keeps wanting me to come up with. I had to walk all the way back outside to the road, walk some more with a right turn thrown in, and find a small cubby-hole entrance at the foot of the Gemini flyover – right where my driver had dropped me.

The first security check was at the booth on the road where they just checked if it’s going to be me who’s going to be entering as me. Entering through the small entrance gave me images of countless jail movies – the size of the entrance was about the same and they shut the door the moment I had both feet inside. The sudden change to semi-darkness from the harsh Madras sunlight outside only made the feeling worse. The next check was right here, where they check that any electronic/potentially hazardous substances aren’t taken in. Well, atleast that’s what they told me, but there wasn’t any pushing-up-against-wall frisking. All they did was ask if I had any mobile phone or memory devices on me and with some patting on my pockets I was waved inside.

The next step in the process of getting moksha was the VFS desk. Surprisingly, of the 10 counters, 5-6 were empty and this got over quickly (they take the HDFC yellow slip and do some basic sanity checks on the covering letter and the DS-0156 and DS-0157 forms, scan the photograph on DS-0156 and read the barcode). And this is where my luck ran out. There are a few guys all dressed up in black and white who act as the ushers and in my case as bouncers. It’s up to the whims of these guys to decide on when to send along which batches to what levels. One of these guys was stationed here to help people choose a counter by showcasing his proficieny in 8 Indian languages. He allowed the 2.15pm batch to pass on at 1.45pm but stopped me (2.30pm batch). I tried being confrontational, joking with him, cajoling him, begging him, acting out the no-Tamil Bangalore corporate type. None worked. In the end I had to wink at him every 3 mins or so, twice with pouted lips, before he thought he’d had enough of me and sent me on to the next level – at 3.25pm.

And Siddharth enna yemathitaan. There wasn’t a single specimen of the fairer sex who was fair. I’d have liked it better to have had someone like that girl who stands behind Siddharth in Ayutha Ezhuthu and apart from not noticing that he’s jumped queue, even tells him, “adhuku mudhalla visa vaanganumla“.

For the the next stage we moved to an adjacent building – and found people even from the 1.45pm batches still waiting outside. Bless that fella in black and white. At this point some Mark guy who announced himself the head of the consulate came out and tried to cheer us up by putting some mokkai but quickly got unnerved with our stony-faced responses and went back in. The next step was the biometrics check and we used the time waiting to float around a few rumours as to what they ask us to do. One of my theories even got some support when we saw couples with small children being ushered right in. Was fun out there, I tell you.

Around 3.50pm our batch finally made our way inside – to wait in yet another serpentine queue. Around 4.20pm I got a chance to say “Hiiiii” to the American lady behind the counter and give her my fore-finger prints. Thankfully I don’t have a mole or scar on my forefingers because they ask us to remove them surgically and re-apply for the visa. Back to the waiting part once again, till the queues for the interview with the consul officers become shorter than 2 kms. Now is when I realised that Americans may also be reading Kumudham in government offices. Of the 10 counters available, each with provisions for both interviewing and fingerprinting, only 2.5* counters were functioning for the interviews apart from the one counter solely for fingerprinting.
* the 0.5 is for the counter set for language-dependent people who need interpreters.

Around 4.50pm I could finally join a queue and at 5.30pm had even got near enough to see the counter if I stood up on my toes. It was now that them Americans proved that the world was really but a global village by filling up all 10 counters to speed up the process of issuing/rejecting visas (which I suddenly remembered was why I was there). That they had to close shop and leave at 6pm was but a trivial detail.

And suddenly I was standing in front of counter 8, giving the firang my file and a tired smile. His “How’re you?” was answered with “Great, but more than a wee bit hungry!”. He laughed. I smiled back, weaker. “How many months in IBM?” – “Don’t remember the number, but I’ve been in from May’05”. “Who’s your client?” – “AT&T”. “Thank you Mr.Santhosh, your visa application has been accepted and we’ll be sending you your visa in a couple of days”. “Thankoo”. Now, the only possible bit of information I gave him that he and his computer wouldn’t have already known about me was that I was hungry, and for that I’ve been issued a visa. Hmmmm. Bleddy, I didn’t even get to tell him about this blog.

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6 Comments »

  1. aagaa… this is the first step of the massive plot for u to eventually replace Abhas as the regular America Maaple….Paiyyan america le vela panraan… kai nereya sambaadikkaraan… aana avana daan samachu saapduvaan. ava hotel samayal avanukku othukkadhu

    Comment by Mark IV — November 14, 2007 @ 3:29 PM | Reply

  2. I dont know why it got delayed so much for you but I was done and out of the consulate even before my scheduled interview time

    Comment by pras — November 15, 2007 @ 12:53 AM | Reply

  3. @markivAs long as they provide me with 2 Jingilies at my back, I’m game to play Abhas@prasNe koduthuvachadhu avlo dhan!

    Comment by santhosh — November 15, 2007 @ 4:45 PM | Reply

  4. Your website is beautiful, informative and Excellent.Controvrsies are part of Hinduism. Sabarimala temple is the only temple in India where religious harmony prevails. It is most unfortunate that actress Jayamala’s reported revelation that she had touched the idol of Lord Ayyappa at the Sabarimala temple when she was 27, has sparked a controversy all over India. National media is giving undue importance to this. It is customary that women between the age-group of 10-50 are not allowed inside the Sabarimala temple. This custom is being practiced considering the celibacy of the God Ayyappa. This Sabarimala temple is situated atop a hill in Kerala and houses a bachelor God called Ayyappa. It is purported that around the 14th of January, every year, a celestial fire – a Jyothi with healing powers – glows in the sky near the Sabarimala shrine. A controversy exists for this also. What is the relationship between religion and women’s rights? Should we care about the treatment of women by religions of the world? Should we be bothered when we see, even in the twenty-first century, a woman being prohibited from doing certain things, like becoming ordained or entering a temple just because she is a woman? But why does the Temple board tell her so? It gives a smorgasbord of reasons: The eight kilometer trek to the temple along dense woods is arduous for women; Ayyappa is a bachelor God and his bachelorhood will be broken if he sees a woman; the forty-one-day penance for the pilgrimage, where one must live as abstemiously as a saint, cannot be undertaken by women – they are too weak for that; men cohorts will be enticed to think bad thoughts if women joined them in their trek; letting women into the temple will disrupt law and order; women’s menstrual blood will attract animals in the wild and jeopardize fellow travelers; menstruation is a no-no for God. And so the list of lame reasons grows. Don’t think that no one has ever questioned the inanity of those reasons. Several Indian feminists have fought, and keep fighting, with the Temple board in favor of the women devotees. But the Temple board remains implacable. It is backed by enormous political clout, and poor Indian feminists, like feminists almost everywhere, must fend for themselves. It doesn’t help that many Indian women are disinterested in any feminist struggle. They think that it is presumptuous for women to defy established customs. It is hard to rally them, especially when it involves flouting tradition or religion. Nevertheless, many brave and, sometimes, distressed women, boldly try to go where no young woman has gone before. Here is a report from a publication called Hinduism Today: “The ban was upheld by Kerala’s High Court in 1990, but the issue is now being raised by a 42-year old district collector, K.B. Valsala Kumari, who was ordered to coordinate pilgrim services at the shrine. A special court directive allowed her to perform her government duties at the shrine, but not to enter the sanctum sanctorum.” In December 2002, Khaleej Times reported, “Women have made this year’s Sabarimala pilgrim season controversial by entering the prohibited hill shrine…Kerala high court has ordered an inquiry to find out how a large number of women had reached the shrine in violation of court orders.” Strange, isn’t it, for the court to scribe such discriminatory orders? Fifty-four years ago, when the Constitution of India was framed, “Untouchables” – the lower-caste Indians who were believed to be “impure” and hence objectionable to God – won the right to equality and broke open the gates of temples that were closed to them thus far. Article 25(2b) was instituted specifically for them; to ensure that they could pursue their religion unhampered. This article gives State the power to make laws for “the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus”. Sabarimala is a publicly temple: Article 290A of the Indian Constitution entails the State of Kerala to pay, yearly, 4.65 million rupees to Sabarimala’s Temple board. Nevertheless, it has so far remained shut to one section of Indians – the young Indian women. And the State, instead of opening it for them, works to ensure that it remains shut to them. Now it is the best time that all concerned should sit together and discuss whether permission can be given for women to enter Sabarimala It is ironic that this shrine, praised as “an unmatched instance of religious tolerance”, a temple open to men of all castes and religions, doesn’t tolerate most women. The society that has grown, at least outwardly, to breach “God’s decree” to keep lower-caste men out of His vicinity, is still struggling to defy “His despise” for women. especially, menstruating women. Is it so because women are still regarded impure and detestable, at least during certain times? Is it because none in power is disposed to champion women’s causes? Is it because women themselves are disinclined to unite against their discrimination? Is it because caste-discrimination is accepted to be viler than gender-discrimination? Is it because society is averse to disturbing the male-dominated hierarchy in India? This ban on women in Sabarimala, while it appears to be a religious issue, at its core, indicates an uglier problem – the oft-dismissed and court-sanctioned oppression of women in India. What were the reasons and sentiments behind the human belief in the worship of God? Belief in the concept of God and worship of God are not one and the same. All those who worship God, cannot be said to have belief in the concept of God. There are many people, who think that there is no loss in worshipping God, even if such a God does not exist; but if there is one, it will bless them. The basic reason for the belief in the concept of God is the fear of death. Inability of mankind can be attributed as the next reason. The man, who set his foot on the soil of the Moon and who was able to send a missile to Mars, could neither defeat the phenomenon of death, nor could stop the natural disasters like earthquake, volcanic eruption, cyclone or floods. Apart from all these during the bad cycle of life many people have to suffer from unexpected sorrows aroused from close family members, friends and colleagues. Then majority of them will start believing that this is the curse of God. Comparatively, humanity?s sufferings, disasters and losses are more than the benefits it derived from the concept of God and Religion. Great wars fought, people killed or harassed in the name of God are numerous. Don’t fear God, Love Him. In this context it is better to highlight a verse from Bhagavad Gita : Mind is very restless, forceful and strong, O Krishna, it is more difficult to control the mind than to control the wind ~ Arjuna to Sri Krishna.

    Comment by bhattathiri — November 15, 2007 @ 8:29 PM | Reply

  5. @bhattathiriEdhuku paeru dhan spam o?

    Comment by santhosh — November 16, 2007 @ 12:44 AM | Reply

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    Comment by Anonymous — November 16, 2007 @ 8:42 PM | Reply


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