I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Monday, January 30, 2006

Enemy at the Gate


Few of the most stressful moments that I have faced are at passport control/ immigration desks at international airports. Sometimes the stress gives way to relief, as in Singapore, where the person at the desk smiled and said "Aaww!! Sentosa for work?... No way!!"

Sometimes, on the other hand, stress gives way to a deep sense of hurt and outrage. In my latest trip abroad (South Africa), all was well, when we made our way in a bus towards the airport terminal at Jo'burg.

There were four counters for foreign nationals and two were being manned at the moment. By rather matronly African women. Everything was going fine and I was looking to follow Senior Leadership out of the immigration booths.

Suddenly, one more counter opened up and a dark man, medium height, walked in. If this was a Noir movie, I would have been struck with the sullen expression on his face. My heart skipped a tiny beat and decided to catch up fast with the miss.

I went to the man and handed him my passport. He looks at me says, "Hand me your vhnreve"... or some such nonsense.
"Hand me your what?", I asked.
"Your vhnreve"

Now, since he was murmuring below his breath, I could not understand properly. In most civilisations, my question would have been answered with a polite clarification. But not in Jo'burg. And not by the dark man.

He looked at me with slit eyes and said.
"Not your visa. I know that passport has the visa inside it. Your ticket's what I said."

Obviously, there's no scope for witty repartee at passport control. I handed over my ticket. The only thing that rose in protest were my goose bumps. I can stand sharp tongues. I can stand rudeness when accompanied by cold logic. However, rudeness within a service industry at the entry point to a country?

A minute later, I was free.

I will remember the bad vibes though. In Jo'burg.

P.S. Some of my friends told me that this was an Indian experience in South Africa. I don't know about that though.


Blogger Mr. D said...

That's wicked, man.... A lot of people keep speaking of an anti-Indian sentiment in some places abroad... I wonder if it's catching

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 4:30:00 AM

Blogger Ravikiran said...

Reminds me of my own experience. I go there with just about enough money to survive the term and a return ticket three months later.

During the student exchange program and the keeper to the gates of Well ... USA says, "you dont have 'X' (some university document) - Go Back!" I was stunned. Later I thanked my luck for the spare photocopies in my check in baggage.

My experience at the US Consulate for Visa has also been bad. They dont consider themselves part of the 'service' industry.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 1:39:00 AM

Blogger i_am_not_who_i_am said...

and what happened AFTER the airport....??....you cant blame and entire country....on one mans weakness!...umm.......maybe u can...did u meet our president?????? hahahaha!@##

fida . ..

Wednesday, August 02, 2006 12:32:00 AM


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