Monday, 28 November 2011

Thought Picnic: Wearing an Incredible Smile to India

Smile!

There probably is a prayer that should cross one’s lips even you are not a spiritual person. “May my face continually light up with a smile and laughter fill my mouth with all the joy that it brings.”

That is the way I felt when I collected my passport this afternoon from the agency that handles visa management for the Indian Embassy in the Netherlands.

As I had written before in a blog about my experiences without directly mentioning India, I am planning on attending courses in India before the year runs out.

It means nowt to them

Now, by holding a British passport, I thought I would be insulated from the bureaucratic insurmountables (sic) of other citizenry but I learnt a good few things in the process.

I do need a visa to visit India, no matter what I want to do there, I do not get treated like a European citizen even though most Indians visiting mainland Europe would in terms get a Schengen visa.

However, what really got to me was the idea that my British citizenship by birth along with a British passport could count for almost nothing if your parents are Nigerian.

Head spinning hoops

Whilst one can appreciate their need of ancestral facts with regards to people of Indian heritage seeking to acquire Indian citizenship, it should really not extend to those whose countries have already processed and affirmed the status of their citizens.

Apart from the hoops that one had to leap through with regards to the right visa to apply for which for me started as a tourist visa, then a business visa until we settled on an entry visa, all of which included 5 visits to 3 different locations trying to ensure all that was required was done, I had to fill in a supplementary form and pay an extra fee predicated on my ancestry.

Of days, months long

Altogether, the processing an entry visa according to the website site could take up to 8 weeks, the filling in of the supplementary form, another 10 days and there was every reason to think one would be marooned in the Netherlands without papers for a good two and a half months – some bordering on the untenable.

I wrote to our consulate about the matter of my citizenship and I did get a reply; something along the lines that it is good to know that this is happening and that it will be forwarded to some department. My response is still in the draft folder; I really could not be bothered any further.

Yearning, waiting, hoping

What I knew I want to happen beyond where I had control to influence things was the abundance of favour spiritual and temporal, there wasn’t much time left and the closer we got to the time, the dearer the flights become.

Each day, I checked the online tracking service not sure of what other status to expect apart from the fact that my application had been sent to the Indian Embassy in The Hague. Late on Friday, the status had changed signifying I should come to collect my passport but no indication as to whether I had been granted the visa.

One did suspect, if the who process took 6 working days, they probably had looked at all the documentation I submitted and decided there was no need to pursue the ancestry issue.

Phew! That was a race

In some cases, I could content I had one of the most complete applications for my type of visa, besides all the documents of self-cognisance and a local government document indicating when I arrived in the Netherlands, the training firm sent a letter of invitation, their certificate of incorporation and their licence to trade with exceptional status.

The visa is like none I have ever seen before; it looks like my passport identity page with machine readable information and my picture with particular detail about my mission – not for the faint-hearted.

Now, I have just a few days to get things ready for a month-long trip which would be intensive training and examinations in readiness for 2012. I had better start packing; at least, I have already been to the pharmacy to replenish my supply my pills.

In all, I am thankfully for how this burdensome process is looking hitch free and putting a smile on my face.

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