Wednesday, September 24, 2014

India visa vis the world

(Published in Business Standard on April 6, 2013)

I don’t know what we ever did to the Schengen countries to make them so skittish, but it’s no fun trying to visit them. If bureaucracy could burst into flesh and blood and stand up and communicate, the visa paperwork would behave like the parent of some country you’re trying to marry.

Who are you? How dare you? Do you really think we’re going to deliver our tender provinces into your goatish hands so you can knock them up with, with, tourist dollars? Speaking of which, how many dollars do you got? Woah, hang on, take your foot back out the door—I wasn’t inviting you in, I was just making sure you’re not marrying her for her bank account. How many dollars do you got—just to prove, see, that you’ll go home? You aren’t going to move in here like one of those no-gooders who live off their poor spouse until her hills are worn brown and her jobs all taken. No sir. You’d better state your intentions, and feel suitably inadequate doing so. Our little princess can have whomever she wants, you understand? Hey, how many dollars do you got, again?

And as the world becomes smaller and smaller (and, granted, terror cells get smarter and illegal immigrants get wilier), visa procedures seem more and more tediously stuffy. I spent all day getting documentation together. Just when I was so sick of photocopying things that I thought I was going to pick up the photocopy machine and throw it across the room, I saw the line that said I had to provide ‘Photocopy of passport (ALL PAGES)’.

Talk about pointless, not to mention eco-unfriendly. Most of the pages in my relatively new passport booklet are currently blank. What am I supposed to be proving—that I haven’t visited any dodgy countries, like Khalistan or Mordor? More to the point, they will have my original passport in their hot little hands, so why not just look at all the pages with their own hot little eyes, instead of making me stand at the photocopier, shooting blanks? No, this is just the kind of wild errand that suspicious parents like to send suitors off on. The errand serves no purpose other than to a) prove your love for their little darling, b) waste your time and/or c) kill you, in ascending order of preference. They might as well insist that you enclose a hair from a woolly mammoth, or an emerald from the Peacock Throne.

Here’s another gem: income tax returns. How on earth does it matter whether I filed taxes last year? (I didn’t, which is why this is so galling. Note to tax authorities: I meant to, and I will shortly, together with this present year’s. It’s not a lack of intention or will, tax authorities, it’s just that I’m very bad at paperwork. And how much of a difference does it really make when you’ve already taken all the tax I owe, at source? I love your tie.) You could excuse India for caring about my tax returns—but the Schengen states? One of which specialises in secret bank accounts? Puh-leaz.

And here’s the zinger: not only do you have to have health insurance—in itself a reasonable thing—but you must sign a sworn declaration that you will get some. This is a parent with emotional baggage, if you ask me.

In any case, everything would be easier if the Schengen people understood that I don’t want to marry tbeir precious territory, I just want to have a little fling with it. I’ll be in and out in a week, promise. Now can I come in?

Damn, that came out all wrong.

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