Thursday, January 08, 2009


Even after two years of being in India, I just don't get the "why" of so many things. It is almost as if logic and reason are not only overlooked, but forbidden in so many ways. Case in point; My visa.

I currently have an employment visa which expires on January 28 and my plan was to extend the visa and take a four month overland trip all around India, writing about it for a magazine. I like the idea. The magazine likes the idea. They want stories and photos. This would make me a travel writer and photographer all in one go. How often does an opportunity like that come up? I started planning it all yesterday. The plan is to leave New Delhi by train and head all the way to Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of India where the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea all come together. From there, the then work my way all over the place, possibly including Bangladesh. I wont go into the details as I am hoping to pull it off and then there will hopefully be lots of surprises.

So Tuesday I went to the FRRO, which is the office that all foreigners staying for extended periods much register to apply for the extension. After 2 hours of pushing, shoving, crying children and one lady telling her story of her passport being stolen to every person she passed, I was informed that I was in the wrong place. I needed to be at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Yesterday morning I loaded myself up on positive anticipation and dragged myself to Jaisalmer House and the Visa Facilitation Center at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Compared to the FRRO, it seemed almost civilized and organized. I just wanted to know what information I needed to process for my request and then I was planning on returning another day with all the documentation in hand. I was asked to fill in forms in duplicate and then wait to be called for an interview.

Two hours later, I was called for the interview and was immediately told that visa conversions were not done within India and that I needed to leave the country and reenter on a fresh visa. I tried reason. I explain that I had spent hours, days even, trying to get this sorted and everyone told me it was no issue. I argued that I pay more in taxes in a month than most Indians make in a year (not in those words, of course) and was told it was just not possible. They do not convert visas in India.

So now, I have to leave the country and get a new visa, which again raises the issue of if I am going to come back to India now or in a few months. Or ever. I do want to come back. My life is here. I like living here, even if at times it frustrates me beyond belief. I thought that with the travel writing idea, I had figured out how to make the best of both worlds. I might be unemployed, but I would be living a lifelong dream. I( think that is a pretty OK trade-off.

Now I need to figue out where to go and I have to be out of the country by midnight on January 28. I could perhaps go to Sri Lanka and start the overland journey from there. Anjali has a friend that is living one of my other dreams. He has a farm in Sri Lanka and on that farm he has his very own elephant. Perhaps I can go and hang out there with the elephant for awhile. Or maybe even volunteer my time at the elephant orphanage. I also have to decide whether or not to keep the flat here for a few more months until I get all this sorted or give it up and let Manuel find a room or much cheaper place to stay and take my chances on finding an equally nice place when I return.

So many questions and almost no time to figure them all out.

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