I had a s*&t day from 9:30-6:00 at the Chennai Immigration Office but walked out with my papers. Am writing this from the airport--I successfully got through customs, thank God. I am on my way to meet my sweetheart in Barcelona to begin our much-delayed vacay.
Sunday, I woke up, had a nice breakfast, and was picked up by Deva and his wife and three children for a great day at the zoo. There will be a separate post about that fun trip. Sunday night, I just laid low and got ready for what proved to be a crash encounter with Indian bureaucracy. I woke up early Monday morning to make sure I had all the documents I thought they could possibly ask for. I was having trouble printing my boarding pass on ba.com so I called them and am so glad I did because the agent I had spoken to on the phone over the weekend only held my spot but did not book me on the flight on the 4th. So I got that all worked out, was emailed the confirmation, and was able to print my boarding pass which turned out to be crucial in the events of the day. I was at the immigration office by 9:40 but was already 10th in line at least. I waited half an hour to get to the front, where I was given an application form and asked to go to the back of the line to fill it out and put my papers in the order they wanted. So, I do that, wait another 20 minutes or so to be told that I need passport photos, a copy of a certain page in my passport, and a certified check from a bank made out to the immigration office for R1470 (about $30). So, I leave with Deva and get all these things done....and of course each thing takes ten times the time it should. One incredibly frustrating trend my friends and I have noticed about India is there are about 5 people assigned to do one job but most of them just stand there and do nothing, so even though places are overemployed, they don't operate efficiently at all. It's just crowded. So, I go back to the agency, wait in line again for 10 minutes or so, and am told to go to a different room to see Clerk 5. The line for Clerk 5 takes up about half the room. So I wait about 2 hours to see Clerk 5, a pretty lady with a permanent scowl on her face. In fairness, her job totally sucks. I plead my case, stating that I was only here to study yoga for three weeks, have no plans of coming back, my husband is waiting for me since Saturday in London by himself, and that I have a flight tomorrow morning. She seems shocked by this but writes something down and sends me back to the first office. I enter that office (at this point it's about 1:20), and it's empty. The worker is chatting with a couple of this friends. I come up to him, say that Clerk 5 sent me back to him and he says, "Oh, see here on your paper (and points to my application), application for registration closes at 12:30 pm." At which point, I drop my upper arms to the table in prayer pose and BEG him to give me a spot. "Please, sir. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE." His friends laugh, he barks, "Fine. Writes down 93 on my paper and shouts Clerk 4." Deep breaths. Deep breaths. I wait in line for another hour or so to see Clerk 4 and plead my case to her. She is upset that my letter of registration from the school is not the original copy. I, in fact, never had an original copy--just what was emailed to me, which is what I presented. She takes the check, gives me a receipt, my papers, and a paper. She tells me to come back at 5:00. So, I leave the immigration office (at this point it's about 3:00) completely losing my mind. The office is supposed to close at 5:30. I have no idea what's going on. I ask Deva to take me to the KYM to obtain an original copy of the letter. Explaining my situation to the kind administrators there--seeing my first glimpse of the whole day of compassion in their faces--I lose it. I ask them to come back to the Immigration Office with me in the afternoon. A wonderful, kind man named Raj volunteered. I asked if there was anywhere I could grab a quick sandwich or something (they don't really do sandwiches here) so they offered to bring me a veg puff, a curried vegetable mixture in some puffed pastry. I was so thankful for their kindness. I gobbled up my veg puff and then Deva drove me and Raj back to the Immigration Office. I presented my original copy of the letter of registration from the KYM which they seemed pleased with. They told me to sit down til 5:00. So, at 5:25, I'm completely losing it again--freaking out because I think they're going to shut down in 5 minutes and there's still 20 people in the room waiting for their clearances and passports. Finally she calls me and gives me my passport with the letter. I thank her and leave, exuberant. Raj says, "Let's just look at it and make sure everything's right." Thank God for Raj. They had written my maiden name on the document--they did not notice that my name was amended at the back when I got married even though I told her and included the copy of that page in my documents. We went back--but now I'm thinking they won't reprint it because it's so late--she snaps at me, "How was I supposed to know this?" I said, "Well, I told you and I included it." She threw my papers at me, insisting I point them out...which I do and she backs down a bit. She reprints and we walk out, spent but satisfied.
The Yoga Sutras talk about dukha, which translates to bad space. It refers to the space in your chest when you are upset, uneasy, anxious, sad--when it feels as if your chest does not have enough space. I experienced a lot of dukha these past few days, so even though I was starving and exhausted, I went for a swim. It's amazing what 30 laps can do for your mood! I took a nice shower, got a great dinner of carrot-cinnamon soup, roasted salmon, vegetables, and wild rice plus a big glass of red wine.
I went to bed at 10:00, with my alarm set for 1:30 AM. The dukha was back, though. I woke myself up in worry about immigration at 12 midnight and could not go back to sleep. I called my husband because he always makes me feel better. I decided to just get up, do the rest of the emailing and printing I had to do, got a cup of coffee, and was picked up at 2 by Deva for the airport. Deva is so great--have I mentioned that? I asked if this time he would be willing to go into the airport with me just in case things went wrong. He replied that he was already planning on doing just that. So, I check in, wait in line at immigration, and step up to the counter. I give her my passport, she swipes, stamps and hands the passport back to me.
She didn't even ask for the document.
At this point, I just have to laugh. I chalk it up to just another adventure and a reminder of how great we have it in the U.S. I will never complain about the DMV again, I swear.
A thank you for all the people who helped me--Deva, Geetha, Ron, Raj, and T Swaminathan from the KYM, and all of you who sent me your positive thoughts. I truly felt them all.
A Dukha-Free Suzy