KB: Eeeeeeeeeek. Hellooo..... Are you kidding me ? What do you think this is, some pipe dream ? Hello, Mr Yogi ! Wake up.
Me: Sorry KB. I let myself dream for a minute.
KB: So what were you mumbling about again ?
Me: Please KB, don't get me started ! Anyway, now that you insist, I must narrate this experience. I had some paper work to take care of at the embassy(Actually the consulate, but that's besides the point). The consulate is located on what is known as the 'Embassy row' on Massachusets Avenue in Northwest D.C. A metro ride usually gets you the closest as you really don't want to look for parking around that side of town. The fact is none exist. The consulate itself was an old building, nothing to write about. especially considering some of the fabulous palace like embassies that I passed down the road, and we are not talking about embassies of european countries. I saw a beautifully designed embassy that belonged to an island nation that I had never heard of in my entire life. But anyway, I digress.
An arrow pointed me to the basement, indicating the location of the consular wing. I walked in, and saw an ocean of people. Wow ! i walked up to a cheap looking ticket dispensing machine so that I could pick up a token to stand in line. "Sorry", the ticket machine was broken. A hand scribbled note on it said, "Please stand in line for the next available representative." I looked up and saw two representatives. Period. One of them was multitasking. She was running back into the office to get some documents and forms, acting as an FAQ person, adjusting the temperature of the wall mounted airconditioning units(Yeah by the way, I forgot to mention that...it was the middle of summer here and the place was cooking) and also accepting applications. The other person was trying to act busy and was annoyed at everyone standing in front of her at the counter. Resigning to the fate of having to stand in a long lime, I scanned the room to figure out where to proceed. Tough luck. The line wound like a snake, got chopped off in between, then restarted elsewhere, just because no one guided the line, and probably because there were a few clueless people standing in the line.
A wait of an hour and a half or so, got me to the head of the line. Trust me, that is a long long long time to be standing in line in this part of the world. I know guys reading this in India, must think its a piece of cake, but around here, that is bad.
KB: That bad huh ?
Me: You bet. Oh I forgot one other part, there was a bookshelf against one of the walls. Each shelf was labelled, row suggesting the contents of the section. I don't remember all the labels, but they essentially were meant to contain brochures, flyers and other tourism related material to promote indian tourism. Guess how many of such books and brochures I found there ? ZERO. NONE. ZILCH. NADA. The indian grocery store near my home probably has more indian tourism brochures than that.
KB: Uhhhh...thats bad. Anything positive at all ?
Me: Well the multitasking lady at the counter was very well mannered and polite. She handled my paperwork pretty nicely and everything worked out well in the end. To me what was pretty annoying was the lack of interest that was so evident in the way that office was organized and functioned. At least 70-80% of the people waiting in line were western citizens, eager to obtain visas to visit india either for business or for pleasure. The least one could do was to present a decent enough face, that did not scream THIRD world, right off the bat. Yes, India is not a rich country, yes we don't have to have false pretensions. But there is no harm in showing a well maintained, well run, and tastily decorated embassy and consulate. Little things matter. These little things convey, how much you care, to be a representative of your land, your people and your culture. It matters. Yeah by the way, all the paper work was done by hand. I did not see a computer anywhere in that room, nor did the paper work that I later received have anything printed on it. It was all hand written ! So much for the goal of achieving e-governance and IT superpower status.
Anyway that was my first vent after a long hiatus. Just my two cents.