I have visited the Indian consulate three times in the past two weeks, a combined experience that I may be able to rank as being among one of the worst in my life. You think I'm being dramatic, do you? Read on, oh naive one:
As always, I thought I was fully prepared for any process. I had my passport, my itinerary, and several visa application forms completed and ready to present.
What no one can ever prepare for, though, is taking a number from the little machine, and then realizing that not only are there over 50 numbers between the current person being served and yourself BUT that there are only 3 windows to service people and all of the people behind them are moving so slowly that you think they may collapse at any moment. I sat down in an uncomfortable plastic chair in their non-air conditioned room, made some comment about them needing "one of those Indian chicks with like 8 arms that you're always seeing in their paintings", and waited ever so patiently for my turn.
An hour and a half later, my number came up on the screen, I completed my transaction within less than two minutes, and I walked back to my office wondering how it was possible that I could have wasted so much time on something so simple and trivial. However, I was assured by anyone who has been to India that I should consider that a small taste of how anything that should be quick and simple will so easily turn into a complicated debacle when India is involved.
This was yesterday afternoon. I figured I could go by at the assigned time for picking up passports, hand them my slip and walk out. I walked into the consulate to find the most chaotic mass of people I may have ever seen since arriving in Sydney (and this includes music festivals where everyone is clearly drunk or high), realized that my number was about 150 down the line, and walked out laughing. I don't think so.
I went at the exact time that the consulate was supposed to open this morning. And I was still about 75 spots away from being served. No one has explained to me how this is possible, but I took it all in stride. I got a banana bread and a coffee (I generally don't even drink coffee, but this situation was so ridiculous I guess I decided it didn't matter), whipped out my laptop, and proceeded to write a long overdue business proposal while chatting with the people on either side of me. It's funny how tense and out of the ordinary situations can draw people together like that. It took two hours for my number to be called, and perhaps 17 seconds for them to give me my passport, including the painfully slow speed at which the woman behind the counter moved.
And I suppose it's all over now, and I should be thrilled. But I just can't stop myself from thinking...there are like 150 countries in the world, and almost all of them manage to have something resembling an efficient process for getting this done. Surely these people can at least COPY what the rest of them are doing? I am going to stop writing or even thinking about this now, as I might burst a vein in my neck.