Tag Archives: visas

How to obtain an Indian visa in the most honest manner possible within an impossibly corrupt system

In Bombay, the most likely place to find foreigners (after places like Bagel Shop in Bandra or Blue Frog in Lower Parel) is the Foreigner Regional Registration office.

In the same way, in the last little while, after my neighbourhood cafe… the Indian Consulate was the most likely place you could find me in Vancouver.

After much stress, I obtained a visa. Gaining an Indian visa is hardly a subject I know anything about, as I was declined more than once before finally getting through. However, I believe that abiding by the following guidelines will increase likelihood of results.

  • Go to the consulate first just to get the information about which visa you require. Even information I had printed directly off of the Indian Consulate of Vancouver official website was declined and said to be false when I asked about it in person at the visa office. Go to the counter, say what you want to do, and create a checklist right then and there of the documents you have to collect.
  • Take note of WHO you talk to at the counter, so that you can say, for example, ‘Gurpreet had given me this information when I was here previously’, when you come for your second, fourth, or seventeenth visit.
  • When you arrive at the counter, do NOT volunteer information. Answer only the questions that are asked.Also, present your documents as they are requested, one by one. This is reassuring for the person at the counter. If you had a pile of candies for a toddler, you would not give them all to him at once! In the same way, give your papers one by one.
  • Be overly polite, and act overly naive about the visa rules. You should, however, know the rules inside and out! My opinion is that only those who know the rules of visas either much better, or much worse than the counter staff at the consulate will be able to obtain a visa.
  • Whatever documents you plan to present (be they real or false documents) should look as official as possible. Stamps, signatures, paperclips, staples, business cards, letterhead, etc. Be also sure to stick to the story of what your documents say.
  • If you can get whatever you want to do in India (working in Bollywood, selling drugs, studying a language, laundering money, any other criminal activity, volunteering in slums or hospitals, etc) done within 6 months, do not think twice: apply for a nice tourist visa. You will be granted the visa, and no-one will ask any questions aside from what sites you would like to see in India. Simple!
    **This applies especially for those going to volunteer. For some reason, a visa for an educated person wanting to do charitable work in India, for free, is the most difficult to get. It appears as though volunteers are considered the most dangerous of all terrorists who are struggling to go to India. If at all possible, get a tourist visa and then do whatever you want once inside the country.**
  • When all else fails, if you detect a bit of sensitivity in whoever you are dealing with, cry a little bit. This is particularly effective when you are dealing with the uppermost rank of visa official: the type who actually decides whether you get a visa or not. In my most recent conversation with a visa wala of the highest rank, he went from telling me You have no option. We cannot issue you a visa on any basis.” to… If you can provide a letter from your university on thursday {the next day} then we can issue you the student visa on that day itself, and you can take your flight on sunday.” …in only four minutes! This happened after I cried and told him that of all ways I could go to India, I was doing everything in the most honest and best way, and still he would not let me go? Sniff.
  • In dealings with consulate walas, I believe honey works better than vinegar. So: Do NOT bark at the doorman or at the counter person that this is your seventh time coming, that you’ve had to wait for two and a half hours. They know very well, they face people like you every day!Be sweet with them, tell them how much you appreciate their work, how many difficult people you imagine they have to put up with. At the end of the day, they hold all the cards and all the power. So speak softly, and say things like ‘I know that you are busy/you have many things to do.’Appreciate the work they do for you. Even though it may be your life’s single most frustrating experience, at the end of the day when you receive a visa, it is because they granted it to you. Say thank you.
  • It is likely easier for someone who doesn’t care whether they go to India or not than someone (like myself) who feels that they MUST go. The more you want or need to go, the harder it will be for you! Haha.If you are emotionally invested in any small or big way in India, do not let this show at the consulate. The only time to be honest about this is at the last minute, as a last resort. Part of this can include an honest or fabricated sob story, as well as a bit of crying, as previously outlined.
  • Above all, be prepared to bite your tongue instead of speaking, and to summon as much patience as is humanely possible, and then a little more.

How I would love to tell you that these guidelines may be of help to you in obtaining your own visa! But unfortunately, they will not.

People from the exact same places, going for the exact same reasons, have all been granted different visas, or been denied for different reasons. It is according to the taste of the person in charge, on that particular day, at that particular moment. Perhaps it depends on what his wife packed in his tiffin for lunch. Perhaps his daughter failed an exam and he is experiencing stress. Whatever it is, you actually only play a small part in it!

Submit your documents properly, and follow the procedure, and hope for the best. Because when you come right down to it… the results are as arbitrary as the day of the week of the colour of your shirt. Good luck!




in between

An Indian consulate is a fascinating place. It’s like a circus without animals and without a master of ceremonies. Everyone is performing, something, but they don’t know why, and they don’t know who they are following.


At the Indian consulate, I received my visa on a friday, on my third visit to the consulate that day. At first, I did not go at the right time. Then, there were too many people, whole Punjabi families, and I had another appointment. I was advised to come back in the evening by the doorman who i have gotten to know so well.

Is baar mujhe MIL JAEGA ye visa!’ I joked with him, laughing instead of crying with anxiety.In the evening, the crowd had not diminished in the least. I waited, waited, and picked up my visa at the counter after a woman rifled through the filing box, after a man could not find it.

A little girl, waiting with her family for their PIO cards, ate a syrupy jamun from a sweetbox and tasted honey on her tongue.


At home, I woke up and slept without a plan. For today, for tomorrow. Sun came through snow-covered branches, through my window, and fell on my bed where I was.

Tentative friends asked me to come to this event or party, or even just to come over for tea, on whatever day. Tentative, I agreed, because it’s not like I had any other plan planned. But I shouldn’t have said I’d be there, because those days my moods couldn’t be counted on. My desires and energy levels couldn’t be depended on. I should have known that I could not be depended on, should have stopped saying that I may come here or there when it may happen that I stay home.

Days assumed a structure. I woke with parents to eat breakfast. Then, they run off to work, or, on the weekends, outside for yard work. It was saturday morning at 8:45, and dad went out to shovel snow off the walkway. I was up by 7:30, rushing out of bed for no reason.

So my dad shovels the snow, and I am languid on the couch. In repose. Having nothing pressing to do, I am not pressed. My same body that was once so active, frantic in its obsession to keep moving, is now content to rest against cushions, or roll around on beautiful heated hardwood floor.

In Bombay, I’d have left the house in the morning while everyone was asleep, and then have come back at night when everyone was asleep, slipping my flats off at the door and tiptoeing to my room. I ran around then, and lie around now.

How rich and at ease am I.


On a sunday in the pre-departure area, people were waiting to go to Hong Kong. Wealthy Punjabis and Chinese were nursing their infants and eating A&W french fries and starbucks lattes.

All of the airport-waiting people are addressed over the loudspeaker in English and Mandarin. Everyone speaks in a hum, hmm, the flight is delayed. Hmm, what does it mean for our connecting flights.

The Punjabi men looked smart and prepared. Shined shoes, trousers, sweater vests under sports coats, neatly-wrapped turbans. Some of the women already wore beautiful Indian finery, with heavy cardigans and wool shawls on top, chiffon dupattas draped over their greying braids. Some will change later, shimmying out of their tracksuits in the tiny airplane bathroom to change into beautiful salwar kameez, to greet their families once they reach Delhi or Amritsar or whatever their final destination is.

One man was becoming fed up. Others had left their bags in the seats across from him, and then went off to buy skittles and a magazine. So then, the man was half-heartedly defending these people from otherswho wanted those seats; it is crowded; this is unfair.

The man was anxious, when would they come back? Where does his loyalty lie? After all, he doesn’t know any of these people!


Getting ready for Christmas?” smiles a tentative acquaintance when we notice one another in a cafe.

Yes, I am! And you?” I trill, not feeling to explain that I won’t be here for Christmas, where I am going, for me, Christmas will not really happen. Why won’t Christmas really happen? Because. Why don’t I feel to explain? Because.

I may have tentative plans for the day that involve a long walk, many errands, writing a letter or an article, and end up spending the day in a cafe simply sitting and watching life. Or watching life from an even safer perch, through the window in the front room.

I may have tentative plans to recline all day and dream, and then get up and run six kilometres, and then come home and empty the dishwasher and prepare an elaborate dinner, just because.

Because of this incongruency between plans and outcomes, I do not make so many plans and just allow a natural deroulement of events.

Every fifteen seconds, someone enters the cafe, cracking the door and bringing a breeze. Everyone inside wears their coats and scarves, and their fingers, tapping on keyboards, are ice cold.


I am the richest person in the world in Bombay.

I had forgotten how beautiful this place is. In the way the light falls, the cars rock back and forth as they inch forward and avoid hitting the people, rushing between vehicles like fish in different currents.

I have never in my life seen such a will to live, not only live, but thrive and continue and love, against all odds.

There was one woman in the street who was only flesh and bone. She maybe weighed all of eighty eight pounds, but she carried a load of fifty pounds. Maybe for hours. When she puts down that load, she will pick up another: that of caring for her full family.

My relationship towards life has never been so tumultuous. I have never loved the world so much, never felt so angry towards it, so worried, inspired, or so cared for. I have never been as beautiful, as ugly as I have been here. There is no other place in the world where there is so much faith, and so much faith misplaced.


On cambie street bridge, I savour tidbits of conversation with strangers, as they feel like whole meals. The only sustenance I have in terms of understanding, of recognition. With a stranger, you cannot take as much, but you also do not owe as much. Yet. While neither here or there or anywhere, what a relief to talk to someone new : who doesn’t know you, doesn’t expect anything from you. You don’t have to explain life or circumstances to a stranger : thank goodness, because you might not understand any of it yourself!


In the plane, it was dark and everyone watched movies. Someone opened a window and the light came in from outside the plane, a shock of whiteness, brightness.

When the power for the Tvs failed, everyone was struck by not being able to know had many hours had elapsed, how many hours were left. In the flight, or in life.

A dad told his little boy,

If you could run as fast as the plane goes before it takes off, you would be able to fly, too.”

The babies that were crying have settled. The toddlers that were running up and down light-studded aisles are asleep, tousled hair falling on their mother’s shoulders as they lean. Everyone slept and the creases in their faces were softened by the gentle yellow light. Everyone appeared younger and more tired than they really were.

Vishal is Maharashtrian, an HSBC information security manager, and a community centre cardio classes afficionado. He told me,

‘Only the people who have dreams can go to Bombay.’

‘There is a lot waiting for me there,’ I confided in him, ‘And now… I am coming.’


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