Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The 5 Stages of Visa Denial

I can't believe I didn't getmy visa today And then, they didn't even consider my case at the Consulate, didn't even look at my documents. Maybe if I was a girl.... NOT!

The Mumbai Consulate is the most process-ridden place to get your US Visa. If you can, avoid this consulate at all costs! The bs begins with the first step of the process - going to HDFC Bank to pay the visa fees. Whatever happened to being able to submit $100 in US Bills? This is the first reason I loved the Canadian Consulate experience. My $ bills worked in Canada. After the money is paid at HDFC Bank, you gotta wait 2 days for your receipt to get activated. That's 2 business days!

2 Business days later, you can go to the website and request an appointment. The site is hella slow and the appointments are really hard to find. When you finally get an appointment, you have to remember to drop off your visa documents 5 days prior to your appointment at the VFS office. This is mandated by the Mumbai Consulate only. WTF? Why do they need my documents 5 days in advance? What's even funnier is if you miss the 5 day deadline, you get conflicting information based on who you ask about what your next step should be. Let me make it clear to you - you miss the 5 day deadline, you're in for a long wait to have your receipt reactivated. Lick your wounds my friend because the consulate does things at its own pace.

After the heart-breaking news that they wouldn't accept my application, I went to the VFS center to see if there was a way to expedite the process of getting a new appointment. Nada! Asked if someone had contacts at the consulate - nada! It was when I walked out of the VFS center towards the cab that a wave of Depression engulfed me. I considered what this delay would mean to all my plans in the US. When was I going to write those reviews? Will they change my departure date? Would I have to miss Gaurav's wedding for this visa mess of my own creation? Why was I such an idiot?

After watching the remainder of the India-WI one day international, I have realized that none of this is productive. I'll do what I have to do to get my visa and get back to the States. What's done is done. Is this Acceptance?

Monday, January 29, 2007

What makes a Virgo?

On Sachin's cue, I read something about my Zodiac sign, and found this particular paragraph interesting...
Some people think you’re shy and unassuming but this is because your caution is simply your way of observing people and situations before jumping to conclusions. You certainly do have keen intelligence and a capacity for learning but prefer to make your decisions based on sound judgments and sufficient facts. When you do express your criticisms it is more than likely because you’ve analysed and summed up a situation quite correctly before doing so. While some people might find this an annoying habit, others will never hesitate to involve you in their work, social scene or even personal projects, as your expertise is highly valued. You make a wonderful impression with your skilful insights and broad-based knowledge. In other words you are a most interesting person to associate with.

Your keen eye may sometimes be turned back on yourself and self-criticism could become a very personal challenge for you. No matter what you do or achieve, it will never seem quite good enough for you. Others may praise you and encourage you for the good work and the excellence of your service, but you don’t really believe it, do you, Virgo? This may be expressed as fastidiousness and a constant distraction about cleanliness, hygiene and tidiness, although there are some Virgos who swing to the completely opposite direction and are sloppy and untidy. This is rare, however.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

2 Weeks in Bombay

This past week has been both hectic and relaxed. Vishaka finally got married; I say finally because this is a moment she's been waiting for 11 years to occur. At the ordained moment, as she was to step into her new life, all she could muster were tears. I reckon her happiness was bittersweet but that's just the way it is - leaving one life for another is upheaval worth crying for.

Being plagued by a severe cough and cold for the better part of this week has hampered my ability to be productive on too many fronts. I did get some key things done despite the illness, the changing weather and the impossible traffic - got a visa appointment (the 31st), attended every marriage function, actually helped with the arrangements and finally, played a sport five out of seven days. What's definitely worth mentioning in this space is my email processing capability away from work - it has been rare for me to be this quick to respond so maybe this is a cue for me to work remotely more often. Praise the Lord for Outlook working over an HTTP connection.

So what else have I done this week? Oh yeah, I participated in one of the legs of the Mumbai Marathon. That experience stands out as one of the best ways I have spent a Sunday morning. The people of the city wore a different face that day - the anger and rage-ridden persona was supplanted by one of passion and exuberance, tolerance and enthusiasm. It gave me hope and made me want to do this every year. If only the people of my city (and this country) could have the spirit and attitude of those I ran with on the 21st of January 2007, India would be a better place to live in.

We got to the marathon grounds at 6:45am for a race that started at 9am. Punita was organising the event so we had access to a VIP lounge where we ate breakfast (eggs with shrooms and freshly squeezed orange juice - yumm) and watched the event being televised on multiple flat screen TVs. I marveled at how advanced and tech-savvy India has become - some of the gizmos they have here haven't made their way to the US yet. What is even more astounding is the buying power of the Indian populace - it far outstrips that of the average American; this could be partially because of the need to show-off but there is no denying the fact that more people can now be accorded the status of "Rich". Nikhil and I finished separated by five minutes and my mom made it past the finish line maybe 20 minutes after the two of us were done. All in all, a memorable experience.

Drove around Bombay this evening to find a place to sit down and drink coffee. Getting to know a new person is always a challenge; it becomes less daunting when a common thread emerges during initial conversations; it becomes a pleasure when even pregnant pauses are sheer bliss. Well, I can't say how high on the totem pole I made it today but I guess time will tell...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

At Heathrow en route to Bombay

This journey to Bombay seems never-ending. I deplaned from the first leg of this trip close to four hours ago; been making my way around Terminal 4 of Heathrow International Airport since. As I sit on this couch and type, every muscle in my upper body seems either strained or taut. I thought I was flying light – how wrong was I? Three more hours of this misery to go.

The more I travel through Europe, the more I realize that the Western world is plain cold and unwelcoming compared to the East. Finding a baggage cart is well nigh impossible, the facilities are sub-par and the fare is blatantly over-priced. The London (and Heathrow) of 2007 is very different from the place I had my layover way back in 2000 on my first trip to the US. The security procedures are unnecessarily excessive and seemingly ineffective – I had multiple questionable items in my bag that the screens didn’t detect – my way of giving it to The Man. Jokes apart, I have come to the conclusion that these checks are devised to make the lives of us honest folk miserable. The terrorists are almost never caught doing their thing. I don’t think the citizens of this country have awoken to the harsh reality that they are living in a police state, their freedoms and rights being severely restricted in the name of National Security. Brings back memories of “V for Vendetta”.

Cigarette smoke billowing over me, I have found safe haven in the Wetherspoon Bar. Seems to be the quietest and most chilled out place to be around here; I reckon the second hand smoke is a small price to pay for peace, rest and quiet. A couple of Grungy girls just occupied the table right next to mine. As they reach into their pockets to reveal packets of cigarettes, I take a deep breath of quasi-fresh air and return to emptying my Outlook inbox. Only 125 unread messages to plough through…

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Everything is coming together in 2007

2007 has started off on a great note. I am making a concerted effort to stay calm, especially while playing sports. I feel confident in my technical abilities and have received accolades for my work. My fitness level is at its highest since the end of 2005, maybe even 2004. And emotionally, not only am I stable, I am happy. To top it all off, I am going home to see my family, to hang with my brother and to enjoy some much needed sunshine. If I died today, I'd die a happy and content man! But life must go on, only to experience more moments of utter satisfaction like the one I am experiencing right now...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snow Day 2007

The second serving of snow to the Seattle Metropolitan Area had the same effect on life as the first one did - it crippled everything! It took some of my colleagues upwards of two hours to get home last night and the roads this morning are slick. Perfect day to drive on the freeway since there is no traffic whatsoever but then again, it might not be such a good idea if you don't have snow driving experience.

For my own part, the four mile ride in to work this morning started with a walk which became a run to the 233 bus stop. Some dude was clicking pictures of the snow covered fields on the other side of Avondale Road and I was watching him work the camera when I caught a glimpse of the bus making its way down the road. What ensued was a funny sight (not pretty) of me running towards the stop; the end result was me getting on to the bus so it's all good!

The snow chains made for slow progress but after trundling along at 30 miles an hour, I finally made it to work a nudge before 11am. No one is here so I have a lot of time to get my work completed before I leave for India. I have been more organized this time around but it won't hurt to start working on a list of things to do before I leave. A shopping list might be needed too. Time to stop blogging and start working instead. If you're in the Seattle area, please be safe and try to avoid driving today. Peace!

Friday, January 05, 2007

The First Weekend of 2007

The first week of 2007 has sped by me. I had a hard time waking up the first few days what with the long hiatus from seeing the clock strike 9. It didn't help that my eyes were recovering from an infection I picked up in San Francisco - 'tis true what they say about that city! As I have said earlier, 2007 is the year for change, for a fresh start. I try to make it to meetings on time, try to avoid getting mad for the small things in life and to work out as often as I can while I watch what I eat.

Watching what you consume can be a very difficult task especially in America - this is truly the land of temptation, where small amounts of money can buy you the tastiest and therefore, the unhealthiest food. My friend Karan would concur with me here - why are the best things in life either unhealthy, illegal or immoral?! These existential questions...

My way of watching what I eat is to allow me one day in the week when I can eat the foods I eschew the rest of the week namely, carbohydrates. I like my cakes, my pastries, bread, ice-cream and desserts. The less I have been eating these foods, the more I am grossed out every time my "carbs" day rolls along. Okay, enough of this stupid rambling.

Terrence and Phillip are doing their thing on South Park and Stan's Grandpa wants to be killed. Aah, the joys of American Late Night television. Time for me to immerse myself...