I went to Chennai for my B1 VISA application. I was there for the last couple of days. What an experience!
The news is that I will be in US at least for the next 90 days. Its a city called Monrovia, CA. Coming back to my Chennai experience, I should tell you that this place needs a makeover. I thought I was in Patna for a while. About the climate – You value Bangalore only when you are out of it. I missed every bit of it. I feel that this place has the best mix of climate and work opportunities even for nerds like me.
The US consulate in Chennai seems like a fortress. Multiple levels of checking and security. They have outsourced the baggage department to a local hand cart. That guy will take all security measures before accepting, and will keep your articles isolated from others. He wrapped my laptop bag in a rag, and before that ensured that I am not carrying any Weapons of Mass Destruction. However, I did see a “weapon of mass destruction” inside the consulate, and that was born and nurtured in the US ;)
I hoped that they grant business visa to all who apply. But, I soon realized waiting on that 3rd row seat, that they conveniently reject any application they could not figure out. It makes sense for them not to grant entry to their country anybody who is unable to explain his situation to him. So, 3 applications were rejected. 2 of the applicants were too vocal to make any sense, that’s why they got rejected in my opinion. I couldn’t figure out the 3rd one. I was tapping my heart and humming what Aamir Khan preached - “Aal izz well”. I have been delaying this but, now I want to set my foot in the US, and experience it.
My interview was over before I could understand what’s happening – all I could recall is that he said “your VISA is approved”. I am not sure, but a smile, a bit of courtesy, some short and crisp answers in a fake accent sometimes works. Different people however say different things. Never mind, but I am definitely landing in US shortly.
Before my journey began, I was worried about the return journey. They had booked my ticket in a “local” train called “Lalbagh Express”. This train, when rolling from Bangalore to Chennai is called “Bangalore Express” and upon return its called “Lalbagh Express”. I tried but could not find any other decent train or flight – so I had no other option but to experience this phenomenon.
After that tryst with destiny at the consulate, I returned to the hotel room cribbing about the heat and humidity. With AC blowing on my face in full glory, I realized that my cell phone is discharged. In fact it was out of battery when I stepped out of my home. No charger, no phone which meant no contact with the world. I do not remember any phone number, so I was doing “Memento”. Some numbers I do remember even now – simply because I called them so many times and heard disturbing and annoying songs – I hate that irritating Kunal Ganjawala song. Whatever. I was worried because I knew that my family must be worried.
I could not sleep the whole night prior to the interview, because I had no alarms to wake me up on time – I am very dependent on my phone, I agree. I asked the hotel reception to wake me up at about 8 o’clock so that I can be ready for my 9:15 appointment. I could not trust them – you know why? Because I saw old age bulbs instead of CFL in the room. I thought that if they can do this, they don’t care too much about their guests. They claimed that they are some 3 star hotel, but you know I just shared my doubts. So, I kept waking up every couple of hours, and switch on TV to verify time on various news channels – Memento again. I am weird.
Finally, I woke up on time, went outside to buy a sachet of shampoo. The bathroom looked decent, but the shower wasn’t. It could only pour hot water, so somehow I completed the formality. Now get ready for the best part. I came out of the shower, the first thing I normally do is comb my hair, I started looking for a comb. But it wasn’t there. You can imagine the state of my hair coming out of that hot water shower. My head was looking like a cotton ball – after a child has finished playing with it. I used a towel to somehow bring some order to the chaos. Managing things somehow, I was sure that once I get out and let my hair soak some wind, I will be fine. After all that mayhem, I finally reached the US consulate.
Now I am waiting for the train at that really weird Chennai railway station – I can’t explain how stupidly designed piece of dirt and trash it is. You need to be there to appreciate what I am talking about. Having said that, it gave me the real inspiration to write this piece. I am in the train now. This place is lit. Yes, really it is because there are a lot of people sitting, no one standing though, interacting with each other. The seating promotes interaction – unlike flights or the elite Shatabdi express – you will tend to talk. People were interacting and telling tales of their inspirational lifetimes to people not know to them. I could not make out a lot as most of them were talking in a local dialect of the regional language, but body language will tell you the context. I must tell you each context was relevant and interesting.
The vendors selling different items in so many different shades of loud and cheer was something I missed for so long – yet never really thought about it. That train compartment reminded me of lot of things that I thought I forgot. It was like revisiting myself. I recommend this adventure.
I must mention about this old lady who came on board a little later, may be after a couple of stations. I couldn’t understand a word she spoke, but the way she said those words made me realize that this world survives because there is more good in it than worse. She had that twinkle in her eyes whenever she uttered. She reminded me of those good old days when I was pampered by my parents, when I was a kid and everybody used to like me. The days when my “badi bua” would come to me and run her fingers across my head with my head on her lap.
The days are gone, its not going to return but the memory and the feeling and the warmth stays. It always does. You always remember the good time that you spent, the warmth that you shared. Some things require a trigger, others don’t. This is life, and its best when its surprising.