It’s probably a pain, but something that we have to go through at some stage!
In preparation for this, I did my initial research. I logged on to the website and got the information that I possibly needed, surprisingly, the website was not too forthcoming and I hence had to follow it up with a call. The guy answering the phone was not too friendly, spoke as if he had something stuck up his backside and was going to pass out in a few minutes. That said, he provided me the information that I needed. The website also clearly stated that I had to do this on my own and could not use the services of an agent!
Obtaining what I needed to know and also downloading the forms that I needed, I worked on the sides to ensure that I had my picture and the needed documentation to proceed. With it all being set, I needed to go for the document submission process. Could I not get an appointment online? I tried to get online and explore this option – but guess what, the website made it clear that you couldn’t get an appointment online and that you had to go and stand in a queue! Alright then, what time is a good time then? I chanced my luck on the phone and got to a slightly more helpful dude this time around! He told me that things can get pretty crowded and that it is best advised to get there early. So that you know, the official opening time was 0915 hrs and tokens would be given effective 0830 hrs!
With the so called insider information, I planned to get there by 7-ish… I live in the UK and at this time of the year, it can get pretty cold. My rationale for picking 7 AM was that people would take a while to get there considering the weather! Diligently, I set up an early morning alarm, get through my morning chores in a rush and ensured to carry some decent warm clothing along. The famous London Underground which has recently had a reputation for not being able to get its act together at this time of the year & provide customers with reliable service was operating a good service! Smiling for the first time, I hopped on and got off where I had to. A friendly, smiling young officer guided me to where I had to go when I asked her for clarity on directions – ( No, I didn’t ask her for directions because it was a she! I’m truly terrible at reading maps! )
With daylight yet to break and the destination in sight, I was surprised to see no one in sight! As I got closer, arrows guided me to a side and another side and then I saw this long line of people! I joined the queue, 15th in line and felt good as more and more people came along with passing time. The office was closed and there was not an official in sight. With an hour and a half to go, I started chatting with folks to get a sense of what they were up to! The guy who came in first showed up at 0500 hrs! I think we picked the wrong day! With temperatures as low as -4 deg Celcius, I realised that my warm clothing wasn’t warm enough to sustain standing out in the cold for an our and a half! I was not alone in feeling that way as my feet started to get really cold! Time seemed to crawl!
Surprising at 0830, a window opened and someone started issuing tokens! Boy, was she efficient? I got mine in a few seconds from the time she opened that counter by just answering some simple questions. With a token in place, we had to get to the next queue. This one was again in the open, the only difference being that the daylight had broken through, but the weather still freezing! An hour and a half with your feet on the ground means that you start to go numb! Again, I wasn’t alone!!! The wait to 0915 seemed to take an eternity. At 0915, the sesame did open and out came this well dressed man speaking my local language ..”Token haat mein ?” he said, as he conducted a 3 second body and bag search letting us in. Glad tog et out of the cold, I was hoping to see some folks who will do what we wanted!! We were asked to be seated and wait for our turn. No one showed up till 0940!
When they did, they all didn’t show up either. It was like a game that some kids would play hiding and showing up – Counter 9 went up first and then counter 1 –would it be 2 next? No way – was counter 5! The magical sequence of counters opening went on for about 10 minutes and the shop was technically, fully functional in about 10 minutes – 0950 now!
An elderly English gentleman, the first guy to show up was called to counter 5. After some conversations, everyone in the office hears this – “I can’t stick your photo! If you can’t stick the photo, go and ask someone for glue – else, go home and stick it and come back later. The poor gent’s face turned pale and being shouted upon! He dragged himself out of the counter for someone to offer help by lending a glue stick! With that done in a matter of moments, he returned to the counter again to hear – “ Why are you back again – didn’t you hear what I told you?!” – I’m all set said the old man as he managed to get serviced again. I could hear a few other foreigners sitting behind me say – “Isn’t that rude for a diplomat?” I couldn’t help but agree and was nervous waiting for my turn!
I was called forward – I stepped in and said “ Good morning Sir!” – No response! I then reached out for my papers from my “searched” bag as I heard – “ Token”” – Give me the token first!”. I promptly did and then went back to submitting my papers…A little scrutiny and I tried saying that I needed something… as I was shot off asking to wait! I waited and then by God’s grace, my papers were accepted! Happy that it was mission accomplished, I asked the gent, when do you think I can get this back? No response as I asked the question again! A cold stare and a response – see your receipt that I give you!! Alright!!! I get my receipt and it says 12th Jan 2010, 1530 hrs!
Welcome to the High Commission of India, London!! I was trying to get extra pages on my passport!!
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