Monday, January 21, 2013

Taking on the granddaddy of 'em all

Phew, three and a half years since I last posted. I had even forgotten that this ancient blog of mine ever existed, until I recently got an appreciative comment on it from 'Kevin' in Hong Kong (his email later revealed that he was able and happy to sell me a whole range of electrical products, but especially switches, at a VERY competitive rate. But at least he started by praising the blog). I was wondering precisely why I stopped keeping the blog (beyond the very obvious 'been very busy' aspect). One plausible reason is that I have nothing to say. This is a serious point that deserves full consideration, but is rejected by the further realisation that having nothing to say has never stopped me before. Then, realisation struck as I looked at the date of my last post. It was three short months before that structural break in my life, Dhara, came along. Since then I've changed my address, my job, the city I work in, my nationality and a few hundred nappies. Enough reason then.

About that change of nationalities and its implications. I was an Indian citizen until two weeks ago, and as my numerous friends who hold Indian pasports will attest to, that means getting a visa EVERY time you venture out of the country. My trips in the last three years have included Austria, Brazil, the US, Malta, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Hungary, The Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, Poland, China, Belgium, and a few others I cannot even remember now. I have stood in every conceivable visa queue and answered every conceivable, and sometimes inconceivable, question on visa forms. Over the longer horizon, I have been impounded in a basement in Brussels airport, and deported from Dhaka airport due to visa-related complications (interesting subjects for blog spots in their own right, some day). I finally decided I needed to shrug off this yoke, and duly acquired my shiny red British passport. This meant I had to give up my Indian passport, since India does not allow dual nationality.

Which should be the first country I needed to visit, then? It had to be India, of course - new project kicking off. Which means I need to get an India visa now, the one visa I never needed to get before (to clarify, that rumour - that Indians would now need a visa to enter India? that turned to  be only a rumour, albeit one that many of us half-believed). But the Indian visa is the hardest of them all, and a true test of my mettle. It is like that argument that Ricky Ponting could never claim the mantle of greatest batsman in the world simply because he never had to face the bowling of McGrath, Warne, etc, unlike Lara or Tendulkar. Will I emerge triumphant from this trial by fire? We shall see next week.

Example question on the online visa form: Have you ever been in India before? If I say yes, I HAVE to provide a visa number from the past (or it will not let me progress), which of course, I don't have since I was a citizen until now. So I have had to say I have never been in India before. The next question? Where were you born - to which my answer is, India. Of course.