Three rows of anxiety ridden faces lined one side of the wall at the American Embassy Interview Lobby. Will they, won’t they, get their US Visa approval today?
The ping of the token meters made rhythmic music. The usher staff nudged along, snaky files of nervous looking applicants. Despite the professional courtesy on display, Anne Frank’s diary stole into my head intermittently. We were the Jews and the Visa officers were the Aryans. They were the precipice that lay between us and our Everest.
There was every shade of humanity present; students, entrepreneurs, business men, artists, mendicants, professionals. And their stories were on display. The interview format being what it is, the applicant’s replies to questions posed by the Visa Officer bounced back into quivering ears of the waiting mass. When one of the officers broke into accented Hindi, there was a wave of community mirth. It was not difficult to predict the outcome of the interview in progress from the waiting gallery. The tone of the explanations, the tilt of the interviewer’s head and in one case, the two lethal words, “Take care!” were a dead giveaway.
We sat clutching our document and passport folders, knowing that if the curtain came down on this act, there was no parting the folds, no appealing, no one on the other side to listen. The power of a nation’s state machinery was there for anyone to see. There may have been a hundred myths about the said recovery of the US economy; a whole lot of people, nearly 800 or so, still wanted to go there in that instant and quite badly at that.
In those few hours inside the Chanakyapuri Embassy of the United States of America, with the bravado gone, the need all too clearly on display, the cracks showed. Under the dressed up exterior, there was the same concern, the same anxiety, the same insecurity and self-doubt. Will I get that strict looking officer to interview me? What if they reject my application? Have I covered everything so far as the documents are concerned? Where do I say I shall be staying? Might they ask to see the itinerary? I think I have it all but everyone says, you can never be sure. Why is this particular applicant walking away in dejection? Ought not they to be fingerprinting only the approved passport holders? Will they shut down for lunch?
When I was “young, merry and very very wise”, I used to feel unique, alone in my internal world. It was as though no one had experienced what I was going through , ever before. There was a sense of exclusivity that was not always and not entirely comfortable. A big part of growing up was the realization that
we are all more similar than we give ourselves credit for!
Sitting today with the compatriots, it showed. Same to same! We are same to same......
Note: Pics by Aqseer