The Shoat Statements

Random musings by the multiple voices inside my head.

Have you known any Sri Lankans (or even South Asians at large) who applied for visa to an European country and came back complaining about how unfriendly the staff there were? Or perhaps how unhelpful they were?

Weeell, I had the misfortune of having to visit the Indian High Commission in Colombo. Before I went, I called them, spoke to a rather polite lady, found out all the documents that was required of me, paid a visit to the website (quite a swanky one at that), and thus turned up there today happy in the knowledge that the visit cannot be too traumatic.

Oooh, how silly of me. First of all, at both the entry points there are some very junior level Indians, who are presumably supposed to screen you and send you off to the relevant section. Never in my life, including the 03 years I spent in India, have I met people that rude. They were just indiscriminately rude to everyone there, including students, old people and who so ever happened to be in queue. Oh yeah, and apart from being rude, they did precious little else, because with the screening and security check they put me through (which is taking my handbag, asking if I had a mobile, and returning the bag without so much as looking inside it), I could have smuggled in a bomb or two.

And so much for the relevant sections, because they sent me to 03 different departments before I found the division I was supposed to go to. The first thing I noticed was that the place was an underground hall, with no ventilation, and not so much as a ceiling fan. Hmmm. Oh yeah, there was also a clock that stated that the time was 3.15, when in fact it was barely 10 (closer inspection told me that the clock had gone to permanent sleep).

Then there were about 10 people waiting, at least 7 counters, and only one of them being operated by a rather harassed looking young lady. People seemed to take random turns at manning this one counter, because they took turns at will. I first ended up speaking to one lady, who rattled of a list of things I needed - a to g - (quite different to the list given by the lady on the phone).

When I got the things together (luckily I took all my docs), which may have taken all of 10 minutes the counter person had miraculously transformed to a man. Who wanted the entire request repeated. After which he took about half the documents the former counter person wanted, gave no receipt, no file number, no nothing, and asked me to call back in 02 weeks and ask from Ms. XXX whether my papers were ready. When he started speaking to the chap behind me, I knew I had been dismissed.

Truly, it was like being in an Indian government office. Embassies are supposed to help the people who come there, and being friendly goes without saying. At no point did the place even remotely resemble an embassy, and there was nothing diplomatic about the staff. That the Indian High Commission would employ such a crowd of unhelpful and unfriendly people as the first contact between them and the outside world is very sad. I've visited Indian Embassies in other countries, and they are leagues ahead of the one in Colombo. Perhaps Nirupama Rao should've spent less time writing poetry, and more time trying to run the embassy.

And the final touch? Incredible India posters all over the premises. Truly, it was an incredible experience.

P.S. Part 2 will appear after I collect my documents.

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Be true to your heart, and true to your conscience.

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