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Aug 17, 2011

The Embassy Adventure

“The most difficult part of a journey is often getting the first foot out…”

Dear Riddhie,

I don’t know if or not the rules of the world or the dynamics between countries would remain same by the time that you get to read this but what I know is that there shall always remain and thrive apprehensions in the minds of people about a journey that they wish or need to take. And trust me in the times that I am keying this in, it still requires some effort to just do the procedural paper work and fill in applications and get necessary approvals to travel overseas.

With this letter, let me narrate how we went about making travel plans for you and rushing about your passport and visa applications before we set out on your first trip to the States.

Now this story does have some twists and turns and yes, a couple of lessons for you to take note of and well a happy ending too, so stop slouching and sit up as you read this.

For the records, let me begin by telling you how the entire thing started off. Your mother and I had applied for our L2 and L1 visas for the US in the month of February 2011 foreseeing an upcoming work related travel assignment for me. Incidentally not only were our applications rejected, they even cancelled out one of my existing B1 visa stating that since they could not hand out a work visa they need to ensure that I do not leave the country on my existing business visa.

In due course my travel got finalized and I had to re-apply for my work visa. My office ensured that they filled out an individual petition this time (simply put, they are kind of more expensive to apply for) and I appeared for the interview again and secured the visa as needed in the month of April. (This is when I had travelled for a month or so and brought you, your ‘bouncing babbles’).

However, once I returned, there arose a need for me to be back in US on the same project and since you had already caused me a heartbreak in the previous trip, I decided that I need to take you and your mom along which meant that your passport and visa applications had to be filled and your mom was required to undergo the same interviewing process again.

Your mom was particularly tense this second time around. Not about the mental hassle that one has to endure during the process it was more to come to terms with the fact that if I was required to be away for a longer period again and if she was denied a dependent visa how would she stick around alone managing things on her own. It was precisely for this reason that we had decided to move from your city of birth to my place of birth in the house that I grew up in, earlier this year. Anyway, to cut a long story short, having faced a denial earlier, your mother was extremely tense about facing the interview again.

 The first twist in the story came in a week after the date of the interview was scheduled. The interview had about a week to go and on one of these days as I was in the shower just out of the blue I had this weird feeling that something about the applications was not right. The hunch was so strong that as soon as I was out, I was on the system reviewing the applications and whoa when I least expected it, I discovered that the petition number filled on your mother’s application was incorrect. It was a typo but it could have seriously impacted her prospects at the interview. I made a few quick calls and filed in another application and submitted it just in time so as to still make it for our original appointed date of interview. However the lesson for you – ‘Always listen to what your subconscious tells you. Never ignore the signs and when in doubt, err on the side of safety’.

Then just a night before we were scheduled to appear for the interview your mom and I were sitting and sifting the documents and aligning the folders. I was looking at the attachments your mother was required to carry for herself and you and was explaining to her the process all over again and the way she should carry herself and all and I noticed a list highlighting a few optional ‘good to carry’ documents for the interview. It was almost 10 in the night and a Sunday which implied that there was no way I could get a photocopy done if I wanted to. I am usually organized about my papers and usually carry extra copies of important documents filed in and indexed. It wasn’t long before I dug out an extra copy for your mom to carry, if needed. And guess what, that turned out to be the first document that the interviewer asked for the following day. Your mom and I could not suppress a smile when that happened. The lesson – Be organized and orderly and it never is harmful to be extra prepared.

I drove you and your mom on the morning of June 27 to the embassy and there was this final twist pending. The way it works right now is that one needs to find a parking spot at the ‘Malcha Marg’  parking lot and walk towards the embassy which is about a kilometer away. Though you were fed and brushed and given a diaper change in the car minutes before we parked in but as soon as we stepped out, you decided to soil the diaper again. This was then followed by last minute ‘in the parking lot and on the car seat’ diaper change again and we were just in the nick of time when we reached the gates. Normally people who are escorting the candidates are required to leave them at the queue on the gate and are not permitted to step inside. I however, decided to stick around to help your mom with your stroller and diaper bag and the documents. 9 out of 10 times I would have stepped aside in accordance with rules and I was actually about to do that when I for some uncanny reason asked the guard on duty if I could accompany your mom inside as she was needed to look after you if need be and to my surprise he looked at me and asked if I was carrying my passport which I anyway was since I was the prime applicant. He looked at it briefly and allowed me in.

The rest turned out to be as smooth as it could be. With you along and you at your screaming and excited best for some unknown reason, we were allowed to jump lines and face the papers and go for finger prints ahead of others queuing up.

When the final interview came in, your mom sat you up at the counter and you turned towards this lady who sat there and kept making cooing sounds to her till the time she actually sat up and smiled at you. There were hardly any questions asked and before we realized we were told that the passports have been retained for stamping and the visas have been granted.

As we came out, your mom was delighted no doubt and you were more interested in your bottle of milk than anything else in the world. The challenge now was to sort out everything and fly out in next 10 days. I guess I shall save the story of your first flight experience for the next letter.

Here, however is a picture of you taken from your mom’s phone the same evening at your Ashima Masi’s place.


1 comments on "The Embassy Adventure"

Renu Verma on 9:03:00 PM said...

Dearest himanshu....i hv never seen a more expressive dad than you. Your posts about riddhie n for riddhie never fail to amaze me n they invariably touch my heart. Lot of love for your lil princess. She is simply ADORABLE. Touchwood n God bless!

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