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!
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”
“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”.
WHAT THE…..IT WAS OVER!
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.