Smaller than Life
Why a blog? Simple. Cacoethes Scribendi -- the urge to write! My literary pretensions and caprices bring me here. Like any writer I write to be read. All my posts, though fettered to my small world and trivially myopic, will live and yearn that somebody connects to them someday. Cognitive frenzies, sardonic musings, aimless banters, incoherent ramblings and trivial indulgences; this is simply an episodic narrative of my trivial world -- in a grain of sand… Smaller than Life.


When I am dead,
I hope it is said,
'His sins were scarlet,
but his books were read'.

- Hillaire Belloc

This is my letter to the world
That never wrote to me, --
The simple news that Nature told
With tender majesty.

Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

- Emily Dickinson

The thoughts of our past years
          in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction

- William Wordsworth

Friday, June 25, 2004
Of Visa Interviews

When the situation comes upon people that will change their life within thirty seconds, it manages to bring out the worst in them. You eventually come to take cognisance of this universal truism – almost a tacit precept. I did, during my visits to the American consulate; my first visit, an attempt to secure a Visa and the second, as a companion and certified consultant (my success with the visa certified me, like only success does in these matters) to one of my friends who had an interview. Ultimately the above truth inexorably settles on you like the Pilani fog of January. So much so that there come days when you secretly hope and pray that such a situation befalls you sooner than later.

And the Visa interview befell me sooner than later. The whole process is interesting actually. A couple of hints for those the enjoyment is reserved for later: The Visa interviewer looks up and stares at you blankly when he is neither asking you questions nor listening to your answers; the moments of the actual interview are reserved for the computer. Don’t mistake the poor American’s etiquette for a squint. When your turn in the queue comes, the American will wave you, while peering into the computer, over to the counter with an exaggerated theatrical flourish, almost excitedly, almost like beckoning a friend over. That is the time for you to hold your nerve and think for the most logical answers. They do not screen in the consular officers’ computers made-for-the-Oscars anti-French or anti-Japanese movies that they want you to see; the fellow wants you in there for an interview.

My own interview was disappointing; it left me with nothing much to write about. Thirty seconds, a few cursory questions, equally cursory answers and it was over. "Your visa will be couriered within the next couple of days. Good Luck!" the visa officer boomed from the other side of the glass. Anyway, for us wannabe writers, our own experiences are seldom eventful and worth writing about. The others' experiences are those that often seem to fit into the writerly perspective. Anyway what better than wallowing others into the grime for banal pleasure and writing convenience. Hence, as usual, it is the other's experiences that I find more worthy of a description.

I was waiting for my turn in the queue when I struck conversation with one fellow in the adjacent queue. This person told me his University and, as a follow-up, matter-of-factly explained to me, with ample reasons, the reasons he had defected to another university at the eleventh hour. He was slated to attend Texas A&M University till two days before the visa interview, when suddenly the University of Massachusetts preponderated. He joked in a simulated sigh, toward the end when his turn for the interview came (even as the Visa officer motioned his hand in a brandish), that he had felt like an American each time he had enunciated an accented “Texas A&M University” to scores of people. On that parting note, he bustled up to the counter. He accosted the Visa officer with a sprightly “Good Morning”. He then began his first answer – rather stylishly, I thought, well counterfeited American accent and all – and said it in all exuberance and cheer. And then he gaped. The Visa interviewer looked at him quizzically, almost peremptorily, demanding an explanation for the mismatch between his admit letter from the University of Massachusetts and the rakishly uttered “Texas A&M University”! I must say he did rally well in the end though, articulating well the reasons for the slip of tongue: the sudden change of mind etc. Imagine his elation when the Visa officer finally told him, dead pan, “Your visa will be couriered to you in another couple of days.” He rushed out in ultimate euphoria thanking and wishing everyone on the way. And suddenly he stormed back in and to the Visa officer, who was now posing his first question to the next candidate, ejaculated a lusty well-rehearsed-but forgotten-in-the-heat-of-the-moment “Have a Nice Day, Sir!”, taking the unsuspecting officer completely by shock. It was the Visa interviewer’s turn to gape.

A thirty-eight page long PDF file which has christened itself the Visa Bible divulges that one of the ultimate secrets of getting a Visa lies in maintaining your cheer during the worst of times. But alas, this maverick friend of mine is of the opinion that Bibles, like classics, are those large volumes of tomes that must be enthusiastically spoken about without being read; he strode into his interview without so much as an askance at the Book. Iconoclasts, unlike vixens, seldom hunt in a pack. And he was the only iconoclast in his batch of interviewees. Hence he found it a little strange when he was afforded a generous smile by the first bevy of sanguine ladies that confronted him. But in his nervousness he just brushed the fortuity away into the deepest recesses of his mind. And he never thought about it again. Until a couple of minutes later when inside the consulate another three unknown roseate ladies sashayed past him to the Visa counter smiling at him unreservedly. All sorority was smiling at him and wishing him, and it gradually began to play on his mind and intrigue him. He couldn’t take it anymore when another portly girl walking towards the interview counter politely beamed at him en route. In all his college life, not even a single girl had returned his ogles with as much a glance. The sudden turnaround left him feeling extremely muddled, suspicious and weird about himself. So much so that when the portly dame gave him an unsuspecting smile, he promptly looked down, much agitated, to check if his fly was open!

And ah yes, I was outside the consulate the other day, waiting for my friend to return from his interview, when I saw this girl stampeding towards me, hair dishevelled, raucously shouting and vigorously waving the file in her hand. I sidestepped the juggernaut in time. She ran beyond me, without stopping, towards an elderly gentleman, her father apparently. I looked on, a little concerned; probably she had left a few important documents behind. It was upon further scrutiny did it dawn on me that she had actually cleared the Visa interview and was making no bones about her elation. I observed her make twenty-one calls in her father’s cell-phone; yes, twenty-one it was -- I was so distraught that I counted. I then vowed that seeing tense faces is a better pastime and did not so much as glance towards her side again. Except just once when my friend and I, on our walk back, saw her along with her father a little further down the road, hair dishevelled, shouting and vigorously waving the file in her hand in an animated explanation. She had, for the past half an hour, been searching for her I-20 that had, in all probability, fallen out of her file during her exaggerated celebration.

You cannot blame them. After all, when the situation comes upon people that will change their life within thirty seconds, it manages to bring out the worst in them. Ultimately this truth inexorably shines on you like the Pilani sun of May. So much so that there come days when you secretly hope and pray that you see your worst sooner than later. Why wouldn’t anyone, when it makes you a sensation amongst the rabble overnight. Free of cost.

Comments via Blogger:

Post a Comment



Powered by Blogger

Vista © The Jack