New Delhi to New York – Part 2

This is a completely true incident with no dramatization or elements of fiction.
continued from here.
Oblivious to what route my auto was taking, I was still inside the embassy giving that interview again and again. I didn’t have to go to work. I was glad about that fact. I just needed to reach my flat, fall on the bed and sleep in the hope that when I would wake up, this would all be a dream. At least, I would have some mores strength to deal with this shit. 
I was also glad to think about the fact that the house would be empty all to myself. No questions, no disturbance. It was summer break so everyone had gone home. Only me and Safal were around. He was doing his internship. Thinking all this, my hands automatically reached my pockets. Whenever I am travelling, I have this strange habit of looking for and counting all the things I had when I had left home. And I was searching for my key to the house…still searching…how long does it take to realize you don’t have it with just two pockets? 
Hell yeah, I did not have my key. Bravo! I never took it. So much for not bringing any metal objects to the embassy. I know I sound like a paranoid.
“Never mind, I will call Safal and check if he had my key since he left later than me and in all probability, he must have noticed that my key is still where I always keep it.” I thought while I….oh wait!
I reached race course. I paid the auto driver and ran towards the metro station to find a public phone (I was so happy to have my wallet at least). The entire race course metro station or the surrounding was devoid of any public phones. I thought for a while and decided to go to Rajiv Chowk since I knew there were a number of public phones there. 
Not to mention how my train ride was. Same stuff echoing in my head. Still under the shock of what just happened. I reached Rajiv Chowk and right as I exited the train, I saw two pay phones. 
First one…dead!
Second one…dead!
I turned around and saw three more on the other side of the platform.
I crossed the bridge. I saw six reliance pay phones.
People had started to notice me now. A guy, dressed in formals with a huge folder, is picking up and banging every pay phone. Doesn’t he have a mobile?
I got out of the station since I remembered a sure shot public phone in front of the Palika market. I always gave my friends that spot when we all met at CP.
Reached the pay phone, out of breath. There were two phones, both occupied. I was relieved to know at least they were functional. Unless, the two guys were making fun of me and were just acting. One of them left and I grabbed the phone.
I began dialing 999988… I knew it ended with 37…999988xx37….Okay, so I did not remember his number. Or to be precise, I did not remember TWO digits of his number. 99 combinations…not bad! Since I had nothing to do that day, why not spend it figuring out the two digits. I gave random tries.
65…nope….38….nope….79….nope….I was going by my gut feeling of what sounded right. I said each combination loudly in my head and then dialed. No luck.
“Let me call akshat…no he is in Bhopal…I don’t remember his bhopal no…as if I remember the delhi number…laksh…nope…rishabh…nope…akaash…nope….nandu uncle….saumitra….sankalp….anant….shruti…. so I don’t remember any of these numbers by heart…oh yes, let me call GD…she will have safal’s number….and I remembered her number too”
I dialed. 
“The vodafone number you are trying to reach is not available at the moment. Please try again, later” sang the irritatingly pleasant extremely excited announcer as if her prime objective of being born on this earth was to say this message to me when I DID NOT NEED IT.
Vodafone people are the biggest sadists I have ever seen. Their phone announcements, no matter what, all sound so chirpy and joyful. Seems the announcer is stoned. She doesn’t care if it is matter of life and death. She is just f***ing happy that the call cannot be completed. That reminds me, BSNL, on that front plainly says “your call cannot be completed” which more sounds like “eeny meeny miny mick…catch the customer by the d***…if he calls….don’t give a shitt….eeny meeny miny mick”. Yeah, they don’t tell you if the number is busy, switch off, out of reach etc. They just say they can’t complete the call. Do hell you with you.
I dialed again and again and again and kept on getting that happy little bitch jingling “The vodafone number….”
I remembered my dad’s number but he wouldn’t have been able to help. I remembered Kukki bhaiya’s number. But he was in London. Chaitra, Snehal, Eva…I remembered all the mumbai numbers. No point. They wouldn’t even know Safal.
Think…Think…Think….Abhishek! yes! There were good chances he would have safal’s number. Or at least I could go to his place till Safal returns in the evening. 
I picked up the phone….844….ok…844….844…..Goddamn….844…..
FUCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! I didn’t even remember his number. My best friend…best is an understatement….he is everything to me. So me, who once used to flaunt my ability to remember numbers, be it phone or account or credit card, couldn’t even remember ONE phone number to save my life. I had become like the rest of the world. Dependent on the phone to keep all the numbers. I hated myself at that moment.
The only choice now left with me was to go to work or to go to Noida and wait around my house till Safal returns. The former one did not make sense. Every damn person would ask me the same question. And I was sure if I lost it in that situation, ASCO would have lost a couple of editing machines or its most precious DSR 450 camera to my anger. Not a good idea. I decided against it. Waiting for Safal made sense. I could go to the mall, watch a movie maybe, eat and spend the rest of the day like that.
But to be honest. I did’t want to do that. I wanted to be home. No film, no mall was making any sense to me at that point. 
I was walking around the shop thinking. Cyber cafe! If I could find a cyber cafe, I could easily contact Safal. He was always online on fb. Or I could even check his number from my online phonebook. I got another surge of energy. I began walking around the Connaught Place area looking for a cyber cafe.
After, what seemed like, 45mins or so. I was back the same point where I began (CP is a circle). Couldn’t find a cyber cafe that was open. 
It seemed like humanity had failed somewhere in evolving. There was a time when every locality would have millions of PCOs with cyber cafes. But thanks to the broadband, laptops, wireless internet cards, GPRS, 3G, smartphones etc. people have taken internet n phone so much for granted. I too was part of that until this day.
I bought a bottle of water and finished it full in one go. It was noon. Harrowed and disappointed in life, I slowly moved back to the Rajiv Chowk metro station with no plan.
Beep! Beep! I tried again. Beep! Arrrrgggggghhhhh. My card was out of balance. I joined the queue at the recharge counter. 
“Rajiv Chowk station is a mad house. People…people and more people everywhere. Running, talking, laughing, in groups, lovers, loners…all kinds of people. And in these millions of humans, I could not see one face, ONE DAMN FACE…ONE DAMN HUMAN who would recognize me..who would help me. None. When you are expecting the least, crazy people you don’t want to talk to will catch you at such public spots and will inquire about where you were going? With whom? As if you cared if they knew or not. Usually when I am moving around in CP, a number of ASCO (my college) kids run into me. Not today. Obviously not today.”
I wanted to scream out loud….cry and break all the glass around me.
I recharged and walked towards the station entry. Took out my card…
“Himanshu bhaiya”
I stopped more like froze. My card had not touched the console. I didn’t see the face of this person. But the voice seemed like that of an angel. Someone who knew me. And Himanshu bhaiya meant 99% an ASCO kid whose chances of knowing Safal were fairly high.
Surbhi Singal. I had recently met her at an exhibition she had organised. She worked for Anu Malhotra and had just passed her grads at ASCO. Oh my God! Finally! But I must compose myself.
“Hey..Hi…how are you?”
“I am fine. What are you doing here?”
“I had my VISA interview. Just returning home. What about you?”
“My office is right here”
She smiled. I smiled back. She gestured to leave and began walking away.
“Surbhi” I shouted.
“Yup” she turned, smiling. 
“Actually I needed a little help. Are you in a hurry?”
“No, absolutely not bhaiya. Tell me”
“I had my visa interview so I didn’t not bring my phone and I need to call my roommate Safal. I don’t have the key to my house. Do you have his number?”
“Nope. I don’t think I have his number. Sudhanshu might have. Lemme check with him”
She called up Sudhanshu. Something told me, Sud won’t have Safal’s number. He didn’t have it.
“Does your phone have GPRS? I can check online and get his number.”
“Yup. Here….” she gave me her phone and gestured to walk. I began walking with her towards her office.
I tried opening the Nokia Ovi site to check my contacts but it wasn’t opening. Before I could go to facebook, she said
“Bhaiya…come to my office with me. There’s internet, phone and everything there. You can easily find the number”
“I guess I will have to do that” I followed her. Suddenly it struck me. Abhishek Fatwani was Surbhi’s friend and I had seen him talk to Safal on phone. He must have Safal’s number. 
“Surbhi, can you ask Fatwani? He will have Safal’s number!”
“I don’t think Abhi will have his number but I can surely ask” She dialed Abhishek’s number and asked him if he had. 
“99..99…88…” she began noting the number on her other phone. HE HAD THE NUMBER!! Phew!!
“68..37”….Oh my GODDDD! I had dialed 65…so close. We reached her office which was actually very close. She gave me her phone to dial Safal’s number.
I told him my situation very briefly and fixed up to meet him at the Hauz Khas metro station where he would give me his key. We fixed a time and spot.
I thanked Surbhi. She offered me to stay for while and relax. She even gave me water. I really appreciated the water. But I had to leave…like ASAP.
So another half an hour metro ride back to where I was sometime back. I walked to the decided spot and waited. The interview, of course, playing over and over again in my head. After waiting for 20mins, I saw my kiddo hopping and coming towards me. I couldn’t help but smile.
I hugged him so tight. Safal is always ready for a hug. Be it anywhere, anytime. You can just hug him for no reason and he would reciprocate. This time, he gave me immense strength.
“Kya hua chhote? Itne pareshaan kyon ho?” (What happened bro? Why are you so worried)
“VISA reject kar diya…..yahan kuch khaane ko hai aas paas?” (They rejected my VISA. Is there some good place to eat?)
“There is Narulas…one more restaurant that can eat anywhere..i have had lunch.”
We went to the Narulas and ordered a thali (a full platter). I told him the story about the interview and whatever followed it.
“Don’t worry chhote. It will all be fine. Just go home and rest. You will find a solution to this prob. Did you tell your parents about it? You can use my phone.”
“nope. will do it when i reach home.”
“I gotta go chhote. Continue eating. Relax and go home” he hugged me, gave a little kiss of my forehead, gave me the key and left.
I ate like a sloth. The thali seemed so tasteless. I bought a huge ice cream and walked very slowly to the metro station. The 30mins ride again to Rajiv Chowk and the 40min ride to Noida Gold Course. Then the pointless painful walk to my flat. My brain had tripped by now. Probably a safety mechanism to save from insanity.
By the time I opened my door. I felt nothing. I dragged myself to my bed, fell and waited for sleep. Nothing. Kept staring at the fan….
Motionless….emotionless….i just continued looking at it.
continued here

New Delhi to New York – Part 1

This is a completely true incident with no dramatization or elements of fiction.

June 21, 2011

The handout for my VISA application stated very clearly that I must not bring any electronic devices with me. So there I keep my iPod and phone. Further it said, dress like you are going for a job interview. My blue shirt and black formal trouser. I have never quite enjoyed wearing formals. I think it is more to do with the psychology than any physical discomfort caused by the attire. Somewhere, deep inside my head, there is a simple equation Formal = Slavery. One should be free to choose his attire. Of course, the purpose decides how one would be dressed and I guess that much can be left on an individual to decide.

The entry time for the VISA Interview was 9:00AM. I left my house (Noida) by 07:45 taking enough buffer time for metro delays, traffic and other unfortunate events that love to surprise me when I need them the least.  However, miraculously I was in front of the building at 08:30.

It is very simple to identify USA Consulate even if you can’t or don’t read the boards. The only embassy with a hoard  of people (at least 100) sitting outside on the sidewalk while only 20 candidates in the actual queue to enter the consulate for the interview, is the US of A.

Then I noticed. They had a counter to submit any electronic devices. I did not let that affect my thought process. Little did I know I would think about it…very soon!

The first checkpoint is where they check all your documents, arrange them in a specific order and give you the token. The lady was stapling all the documents to the back of the PASSPORT! Yes, they actually staple your passport cover. After all the effort that goes in keeping the passport safe and clean, you do feel a pinch when you hear the CRUNCH! of the stapler on your passport. Right in front of me was a Punjabi lady who had designer passport cover (to the best of my memory it was Louis Vuitton, no idea if fake or real). Wish I could have recorded her expression seeing her passport being stapled like that. She gave a nasty look to the lady at the counter.

Moving ahead, the second point is a window where a poker faced woman with specs (Indian) asks you very obvious questions from your application to verify all the information is complete and eligible for next round. I cleared it and this gave me a great confidence.

The next window is where they take your fingerprints to digitally sign your application.

The last stage takes time. And this waiting drives you crazy. Even though you have been rehearsing everything from last so many days, at this point, your anxiety reaches the peak. A little more and you would definitely require medical attention. Specially to look at people walking away from the consular windows WITH their passports in their hand and a sad, about to cry face. At the same time, you do see certain super happy humans and it gives you courage. The whole game gets too much to think of.

The handout also said that one must not speak to the consular unless asked for and one must only give the information asked for. Telling more than what is required or not giving sufficient information may lead to delays or even denial of the VISA application. This point kept on lingering in my head.

I was completely lost in all the Punjabi murmur around me when  my number flashed on the window right in front of me. I am still getting the creeps while writing this. I walked to the counter. Probably the longest walk ever. On the other side of the glass sat an African-American lady in her 50s and she did not look happy. As if her coffee smelled like her own piss or she had real bad trouble this morning, thanks to last night’s feast of masala Indian food or she had caught her husband cheating on her for an Indian guy or the consulate told her she would be sent to her native place or may be she just hated the color blue.

“Hi how are you doing? Can I have your passport?” she said like she wanted to dip it in her coffee mug and chew.

I pushed it across from the little slit.

“What kind of VISA are you seeking?”

“F1” I answered.

“What is your latest qualification?”

“Masters in Film and Television Production”

She began typing something.

“And why do you want to go to New York Film Academy?”

“To study cinematography”

More typing.

“But you already studied film making. What’s the difference?”

“I want to specialize as director of photography and learn about cameras and…”

“It is film making end of the day. Aren’t there any good courses in India? Bollywood is a big industry. You can learn so much here.”

She continued typing.

“There aren’t any good cinematography courses here…”

“I am sorry but I cannot grant you this VISA. You need to get more settled in your field. You have just graduated. You VISA application is denied. Here is your passport and some information about this denial”

She handed back my passport and a small booklet saying 214(b).

“Next” she shouted. Another number flashed on the screen and a young girl behind me said “Excuse me”.


I left the counter…blank, unclear of what just happened, unable to gulp it down. I had prepared every document, ran around the whole city in that summer heat getting everything sorted. My admission was approved at NYFA. Everything was ready. But all seemed in vain now. No VISA meant nothing.

It waited for a month anticipating this interview and it took only 5mins to blow it off. I simply had no clue how to react to that. I had almost believed that I would be in USA by September. Now it all seemed like a joke. Just that nobody was laughing. Gathering myself, I began walking out of the consulate.

What would they do if I break the glass and grab the neck of that woman? She won’t make it alive out of my grip I swear. (What would they do? Well, now when I think of it, I was at the embassy of United States of America. Nobody would have ever been able to prove that I was born. Everything about me would have ceased to exist.) In all probability, she must stay somewhere close. She would walk out of the consulate in the evening. How about I catch her then? Never in my life had I felt such rage for anyone. I looked at her one last time. She didn’t look back. Obviously she was busy screwing up the happiness of that girl who didn’t seem happy either. I continued walking wondering what next? I was having a real tough time, for the first time in my life, accepting things.

I didn’t realize when I was already at the sidewalk, outside the embassy. The last 5mins were playing in my head again and again and again. If only I would have said this, if only I would have answered like that. What would I tell everyone? How embarrassing it would be to face everyone. Why embarrassing? It is not my fault. But I could hear some voices laughing and mocking me.

I signaled an auto.

“Central Secretariat metro station?”

“Nahi ji, Race course chhod denge. Chaliye” (No, I would go to Race Course station).

I didn’t really care at that point. I sat in. However, my day, had just begun. It was just 10:30.

Continued here