“Don’t worry,” she said. “You can get your visa to India in one day. It is very simple and fast. Just go to the Consulate with your passport and you will be done within an hour or two.” Jacquie had been to India before so I trusted what she was saying. This seemed like great news to me since I had been planning a week of absolute abandon with no responsibilities. Now I would not have to worry about mundane, silly things like the disorganized bureaucracy of India for quite some time. I felt that I was free to enjoy my time back home in the Bay Area before I left. Sure, I would need to buy some socks, shampoo, anti-shit-your-pants medicine, etc. But I would be able to pretty much just chain smoke blunts for the remainder of my time at home. Unfortunately, I was wrong… and so was Jacquie.
A week went by. I found myself at my granddad’s old cabin in Arnold, CA, happy to be avoiding responsibility, when I received the call from Lani. Apparently, the Indian visa could not be obtained through the Consulate at all. We would have to go through a third party agency we had never heard of called CKGS. Apparently, it would take seven business days to process and apparently there was a good chance that we were now entirely fucked. You see, I wasn’t going to be returning home from the cabin for several more days and that only left us with nine business days before our flight left for Tokyo. If there were any hold-ups once I returned, then we would either be spending well over a $1000 to reschedule our flights or we would not be going to India at all. Obviously, the visa application process had changed.
“Don’t worry.” I assured her. “There is nothing we can do now. We’ll deal with it later…”
Stress rising, I became concerned, but I figured that it was best to bury the issue to be dug up at a later date.
Later came quickly.
The day after I returned from my relaxing sabbatical, there was a ton of shit to catch up on. There were at least three extensive and redundant forms that had to be filled out on the Internet. Worse still, they had to be done quickly or else our session expired and we had to start the whole stupid ordeal from the beginning. We needed passport photos, printed checklists, an intended date of arrival, a hundred and twenty dollars, proof of residence and even a reference in India (a country that we had never visited). After painstakingly getting all of this crap together into an organized package, I felt that there was no way we could fail.
We got to CKGS (the third party Indian visa application center) early the next morning. The place had the vibe of a cramped DMV …but, you know, Indian. We had read online that there was absolutely no need to make an appointment since drop-ins received the same treatment as people with appointments. But, of course, that day was the first day that the policy had changed.
“NO MORE WALK INS STARTING MONDAY” read the poorly scribed sign on the front door.
“No problem’” I told myself. My rage was not completely blinding quite yet. We still had eight business days left. We reasoned that we would make an appointment and come back the following day.
But they wouldn’t let us.
“Appointments must be made online,” explained a CKGS employee standing by the front door. So we tried, several times, but the mostly broken website mocked us with its lack of functionality. There was no way to do what they were asking us to do.
At this point, I was ready to walk away from the idea of ever visiting India entirely. I was ready to turn to the man at the front and tell him to fuck himself, fuck his family, in fact, fuck all 1.25 billion Indian people. I’m done.
“No, not at all. I actually got punched in the face earlier today.”
I wasn’t surprised, but you had to feel bad for the guy. His reply left me feeling sympathetic to the point of actually calming me down a bit.
An hour went by while we trudged through seemingly pointless bullshit and we managed to leave with an appointment scheduled for the following day. All seemed well until I noticed that there was no middle name on my application, which meant (you guessed it) that I would have to fill out all the paperwork and print it once again. My god, I could barely bring myself to do fifteen minutes worth of homework in my youth and here I was being forced to dedicate two days of my life to something infinitely more arbitrary. I wanted to go back and punch someone in teeth…
I felt like I had lost a lot of hair and whatever remaining respect I might have had for insane bureaucratic garbage. Maybe we, as a race, should just say “fuck it” to visas. While we’re at it, let’s just say fuck it to borders entirely! Oh, if only things were so simple… So, to sum things up, everything did eventually work out. We got our visas! The staff at CKGS were actually incredibly helpful; it was not their fault that the system is in shambles. My advice to any American reading this who plans on going through the same process to visit India is this: Start early and don’t assault anyone along the way… though you will probably feel like doing so many times.