Yesterday was the big interview. This was not a job interview or college interview, this as some would say was bigger than that, and this was the US Visa Interview. For some years now, there has been so much said about this and I felt as nervous as I would feel if I am going to write a 100 mark paper in Latin or some other language I did not know!
The interview time given to us was 11.30 am and well, I and my family reached an hour earlier. If you knew my dad, you would not be surprised even if we had reached at 8 am! The queue to the entrance was unbelievable and after all, when a fixed time is mentioned, it is expected that you would not be made to wait like beggars for free food in this sweltering Mumbai sun.
There were youngsters and kids and even senior citizens waiting in the same line. The ones standing ahead of us in queue had come for their 10.30 am interview and those behind us were called at 12. We all were in the same queue! I was beginning to feel, that writing a paper or giving HSC would have been much easier than this senseless wait.
I would say that as an Indian, I have been completely offended by this behavior. After all, would they every make any other people in any other country wait like this? In our city, in our own country, we were made to wait by whites! Mind you, I am not a racist but if this is not the irony, I don’t know what is.
When finally we were allowed pas the elaborate security gate, one would feel he or she is a big criminal. Security is one thing but strip searching each and everyone, is insane. We were actually made to raise our hands and walk through the electronic metal detector, as if we have not come for an interview but are intending terrorists and criminals.
After so much hype about the US visa, I did not know what to expect. But I know one thing, I had not expected this. It was completely chaotic with no sense of discipline. After the security, they took our fingerprint imprints and then there was a long wait for the interview. There were several magazines on the rack but nearly 70% of them were Islamic and I did not understand why. After all, we are in India and in the US embassy office. Why did this suddenly feel like Pakistan? I was appalled.
The US embassy office does not cater to local Mumbai languages of Hindi and Marathi, but has Gujarati and Islamic magazines! I really did not know what more to expect from here.
Since we had applied as a family, the entire family was called together. This was a good thing or so was I thought. Foolish me! Well, a slow 45 minutes later, our token numbers were called in one of the ten counters.
There were three other families waiting in the same counter before us. Yes, even there after having the token number called out. There was a queue. When finally we went inside the miniscule cabin, there was barely any space to stand. We were greeted by a Hispanic lady with a soft, feeble voice. There was a glass door and metal bars separating us. This was really déjà vu.
I mean, I have never actually been to a prison but the US visa interview cabin for which we paid no less than Rs.10k was exactly the same. It took us weeks to reach to this cabin- we prepared separate files displaying assets, financial and educational records. But the Interview lasted lesser than ten minutes, asking us less than ten questions.
To Dad: Why do you want to go to US?
Answer: My son is working and living there. I want to see him and spend time with him.
To Mom: How many children do you have?
Answer: Three children.
To Dad: What is your third child doing?
Answer: She is married and is settled in UAE. She (referring to me) is the youngest.
To Dad: Why do you want to go to US now?
Answer: He has been calling us from years but it is just now we could go, as she (me again) just completed her studies.
Two minutes of furious typing on the computer letter, she returns our original passports taken earlier during security check and hands out a letter. The letter states the reason behind the rejection. It says that since we are possibly intending to be immigrants and have not shown any reason why we are not, we are not given a visa.
Where we disappointed? Yes. Where we angry? Yes. But more than anything, it is this assumption that every Indian who goes to USA never wants to come back that bugged us. After all, the Interviewer had not even checked our documents which show that we are ably settled in Mumbai and have no reason to settle down in the States.
There must be probably 1% of the population who apply for a visa intending to be immigrants. But because of those few, there are honest people like us who are always looked down upon in doubt. Nobody really knows what goes in the minds of the Interviewers. But it is wrong that while we welcome them in our country with open arms, they still look at Indians as wannabe-Americans.
Yes, there are people in India who dream of settling in the United States of America. USA might be beautiful but India is no less a charmer. Please Mr. Obama, make note that, Indians are not leeches and we like your country but we love ours. We want to see it not stay in it.
India is a home to thousands of Americans too but we treat each one of them with respect. Not because we love our 1.2 billion teeming population, but because of our culture which teaches us- Attithi devo bhavo (Each guest in our land is no less than a god).
Editor’s note: At GingerChai we believe in dialogues and conversations to enrich our mind. We received a long reply for Vinita’s “The Big Interview” experience from Gyanban, who blogs at Gyanban and Ja-Saala Times. We have updated the article with his reply below, so that readers get both the perspective.
I find it incredibly ironcal and funny – that some people still think of going to America is a big deal – canot understand why is there (or is there?) a hype about it? H1 visas no longer fill up as fast – neither are L1 management transfers overflowing.
Having said that – there is nothing wrong in wanting to work or live in a different region or country – what I find unnecessary is the craving for it.If it works out good for you – if it didnt no worries.There are lots of opportunities here as well.
Security protocols are standard across the world (well mostly) and is quite well known to people who are well travelled.Besides it is for our own good – the more secure we are the better it is for all of us.Why leave anything to chance? Terror attacks dont come with an invitation or a trailer like in pre-release movies,neither do the people who carry out these attacks.The stereotypical picture of a terrorist,as potrayed in the movies, could be quite different from reality. The biggest strategy that some terrorists use is “commonality” they look,behave and act like perfectly normal everyday/regular people. Hence the need for stringent and stricter security norms.
All consulates and embassies across the world have articles and magazines on different countries – to sensitise people or aprise people of different cultures, ethenicities or political scenarios.Chances are some people pick some of these magazines and keep it back in the chair and not in the shelves where they belong.So it is not the case of one consulate only talking about one country or ethnicity.
On a separate note, let us not criticize about any country be it Pakistan,US or even our own – unless we are prepared to do something about it to fix the problem.We should learn a lesson from our past generations who have just generated more and more worng percpetions with half baked knowledge or information or even personal bias.
Many companies issue a travel advisory to their executive who need to travel to multiple locations. These advisories give a detailed view on the cultural norms,climate, crime,and tourist attractions among other details.When I got one while traveling to India from another location, I was shocked and outraged.
It gave such a wrong impression of my country – but as the adrenalin died down – I began viewing it objectively and from a third person point of view – from a point of view of a person who has no clue about the land or is visiting for the first time – it made sense – because the data was factually correct and not someone’s figment of imagination.
The questions that are asked by the visa officer ae perfectly normal.They have been dealing with people intensively and can make out whose interview to lengthen and who’s to shorten. A classic example will be of job interviews.Though opposite in nature the similarity lies in the thought process. When a hiring manager does not see a fit for a candidate in the job, he is in someways switched off and goes through the motions to ask the basic questions and end the interview as quickly as possible.
Alternatively, if he finds the candidate suitable he engages in more questions to make his assessment clear.This is also true for candidates with fudged documents or fake experience certificates.If there is a suspicion, more questions follow to uncover the truth.Dealing with scores of interview candidates over the years gives you an instinctual understanding of a character and his or her vocabulary while answering a question.
Each country has to maintain a specific number of people entering and exiting the country.It is dependent on the respective country to ascertain that number.Sometimes it might come across as being unfair to some people,but in reality nothing is done on the whims and fancies of one individual while accepting or rejecting a visa.
One has a right to feel disapointed,but if you are determined,you can reapply and it will be addressed accordingly.There are many cases where the second or the third attempt was a succesful one.
Lastly, try talking to a foreginer,and they will tell you horror stories of how difficult it was to deal with the Indian immigration system – though for entirely different reasons.Talk to people who deal with customs and they will tell you what they go through.
This however does not mean that the entire Indian immigration system is difficult or the entire customs check is a bad experience. Just like in the US- there are some good people and some bad people, some people uderstand, some dont.Somethings work out in your favor and some dont.
We need to stay objective, and neutral and resist from forming a biased opinion for all and sundry.
Like they say – sometimes in life you got to be pigeon, and sometimes the statue.