Monday, December 12, 2005

The visa interview and fuss levels

On a day like Monday, I wouldn't have asked for more. A 3+ hour drive from Pune (my home city), Mumbai is the place I've always loved to go right since I've been a kid. Mumbai aka Bombay, the financial capital of India is arguably the single most important city of country. A sweet little break from work - to go appear for a Business Visa interview at the American Consulate in Mumbai sounded like the perfect reason :)

Two others from my work place were accompanying me as well, for their respective visa interviews. I, being the standard calm self, had just begun enjoying the "working-weekday-break" when I sensed that one of my two fellow companions possessed a noticably high fuss-level (explained below). That is where I realised I was going to enjoy more.

With every event, there is an associated "fuss level" as I put it. A "fuss level" is an index that expresses increase in panic level when the event approaches. To put it in other words, it expresses a person's inability to stay calm as he/she gets close to the event. Common examples of events are examination days, job interviews, dates and this event that I was witnessing for the first time personally - a visa interview.

I was far too careless by my own standards, since I was just believing that nothing much could go wrong. And if it did, it really made no big difference to me (besides having a "visa rejected" stamp). More often than not, such an attitude can help one to keep the 'fuss level' down, grounded to zero in fact. As they say, it takes all types to make the world.

In this case, I was not carrying the most important documents that the consulate would have asked me to produce, and I was busy thinking about something else. And then I was suggested to try some stunts if possible to get the documents and be 'psychologically' safe. While I was travelling, I rang up a person from the Finance Department of our company. I asked him to email me my salary slips for the past 3 months. Two hours to go before I would be called in for the interview, and we were in Mumbai, right at the American Visa Consulate Office. And diagonally opposite the office, I saw a branch office of IDBI, with whom I bank. What a coincidence! I walked in and got my bank statements for the previous 6 months. And after hunting around for a cyber cafe, which was a stone's throw away, I got printouts of my salary slips. Lo and behold, I had all documents ready!

Then came the time to stand in the queue outside the office to wait for your turn. The favourite pastime, as you would have guessed (or maybe not) was to derive pleasure by watching the different 'fuss levels' people have. And what concepts people have.. Half the dudes were wearing their best formal shirts and trousers, a neat tie on, and donning a great suit. That's probably the only other occassion when they would wear such a dress, the most important being their own wedding. I was in casuals, which could pass of as formals. Only one dude was wearing 'home clothes' - a visibly not ironed T-shirt, a pair of general trousers, and chappals. This was another extreme - which to me made complete sense, but he drew the attention of almost all those who donned their coolest formals. He got a visa, so did I and most probably the ones who donned the suits too. Did I mention that the consulate didn't even care about a single document in my case?

A matter of 30 seconds did the trick - an experience of 4 years in the industry, 3+ with a very well known MNC, a super casual approach, a looong yawn while answering the consulate officer (result of getting up early to reach early to satisfy someone's fuss level). And dudes, that gave me a 10 year multiple entry B1/B2 class entry into Uncle Sam's land. With company sponsorship. A day off, the first of the week. Get me more reasons my lord!


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