Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chennai Chennai aasai :))


The heat hit me on the face as soon as I was out of my 2nd AC Compartment. Sounds familiar? Its because this post is a rehash of a post 3 years ago. Yes, I'm talking about a visa interview in Chennai, the only difference being that I had Snuggles with me this time. But hold on, lets start at the beginning.

As you know already, I left my job last year in January (if you don't know, then it means you are new here and you might need to refer the archives on the right pane :-p). Well, leaving a job in US does not plain mean you are leaving a job. It involves a change in status. Hence my status changed from L1 to H4. We applied for the change of status immediately and it got approved fine. So as long as I was in the US, my status was valid. But if I left the country, then I had to get a H-4 visa stamped on my passport. My L-1 visa (got in Delhi 2 years back) wouldn't be valid anymore. All said and done, I had to travel to one of the US consulates in India to get a stamping. Why not our favourite Chennai? :-p.

So started my theerthayaathra. I call it that because each time we come to India, we somehow need to go to a US consulate and put namaskara and come back :-p. Anyways, my hubby, the typical planner that he is, booked the appointment at the consulate for 27th March 2008 at 9 AM, booked train tickets for the previous night and air tickets on Paramount airways for the 27th afternoon as I wanted to get back to Bangalore as fast as possible. I was worried pretty bad, as I'd be travelling just 2 days after landing in India. Sri assured me that we could cancel the appointment if I wasn't comfy (I was worried about Snuggles being not well/not adjusting to the weather here). Anyways, Snuggles was marellous on the planes and took to Bangalore pretty well. The only problem was that I couldn't sleep at all on the planes, as well as the next 2 days (hardly slept for 2 hours each day). My trouble point was that I not only had my jet lag, but Snuggles's jet lag to deal with. Though I would want to sleep at nights here, Snuggles would be totally up and hence I wouldn't get a wink of sleep :-p.

On 26th evening, the Paramount airways people called dad and informed us that the plane was cancelled! Dad gave them a nice scolding saying we booked tickets on their plane only because we have an infant travelling with us and we wanted to get back to Bangalore asap. The rep said she'd look for an earlier plane and would get back. So at around 9PM in the night, dad, Snuggles and I headed to the railway station in an auto. Travelling in an auto with a baby is an experience, I tell you, what with falling into potholes and jumping on speed bumps :-p. Anyways, we got to the train without problems. Snuggles was ok on the train except for a small fussy period (when dad held her (I know, I know, I'm really lucky to have such a sweet baby :-D). I was able to sleep for about 2 hours and thats it :(. Early morning at 4:30 AM we got to Chennai, only to discover that a new flyover is being built right next to the guest house in which we had a room reserved :-p. After quite a bit of walking we were able to get to the room.

I had previously decided to take Snuggles to the consulate. One of my close friends, Aarts, took her baby to the consulate in Nov 2007 and she suggested that it'd be simpler as ladies with children would be given preference. I had bought a sling specifically for that purpose. Handling a file full of papers would be difficult with a child in one hand. So I thought a sling would come in handy. The only problem was the security check - I was worried that they'd make me remove the sling (which'd be a hugge hassle what with removing the baby, then removing the sling, then putting on the sling and putting in the baby!).

We set off to the consulate at around 8:15 AM (dad brought breakfast from the nearby Saravana Bhavan) and reached there by 8:30 AM. I was able to go in without any trouble whatsoever. The security check as also a breeze as the lady didn't ask me to remove the sling and moreover since I carried only the file and the baby in the sling, there were no purses to check. But I'm somewhat surprised at the slack in security, I mean the lady just asked me if I had a cell phone. I said no and they didn't even have a way of making sure. I hope the Americans inside know about this (I'm more surprised because in US airports, they make us remove shoes and jackets and scan everything through).

Anyways after getting in, a security guy saw Snuggles's US passport and took me to the front of the line for the Indian officer/finger-prints queue. The man standing in the front of the line started protesting "I have a 10 AM appointment sir". I was flabbergasted. My FIL had complained about them letting in people of later appointments, but it was still 8:45 AM. I remember previously in Chennai consulate itself, they didn't allow me inside because I was half an hour early for my appointment! I said to the protesting guy "I have an appointment at 9 AM, so please don't worry" (I had half a mind to put out my tongue at him ;-) :-p) and was soon called on to present my papers. The whole thing was no problem except for the fact that the consulates have recently changed the dollar exchange rate and the DD I took wasn't enough. Thankfully, the cautious guy he is, Sri had warned me about this earlier and I had taken a couple of hundred bucks change. I was told to pay the same in a counter inside.

I went to the next building (I was familiar with this exercize as I had visited the consulate earlier) and was asked to sit and wait for a while. Snuggles who was quietly sleeping in the sling all this while, chose this time to slowly start fussing :-D. So I got up and started walking to and fro to calm her down. Soon a guy called me and noticing the DD, sent me to the paying counter. I added the extra money and was told to come back for the change. Later immediately I was taken to the front of the line in the Interview queue and soon interviewed by an American lady. Since I have the habit of putting up conversations, here it is:

Ms. American: Hello
Me: Hi, Good morning!
Ms. American: How long have you been staying in US?
Me: About 2.5 years.
Ms. American: How long has your husband been working for his current employer?
Me: 2 years.
Ms. American: {refering to the previous L1 on my passport}Are you still working for your employer?
Me: No, I resigned last year. We applied for change of status to H4 then.
Ms. American: So you are currently unemployed?
Me: Yes.
Ms. American: {refering to Snuggles} Was your daughter born in US?
Me: Yes.
Ms. American: Ok, your visa is issued, passport will be sent to your home. Bye.
Me: Thank you {smile}.

I hurried to the paying counter, only to find that the girl still didn't have the change ready. I was supposed to get 38 bucks back, but she had only 32 bucks, so I asked her to keep the change. I didn't want to wait, as we wanted to get to the airport asap. Only once I came out did I find out from dad that the rep from Paramount airways the previous day hadn't even registered our complaint. Crazzzzy, I tell you :-p. So dad had to repeat the whole problem to another rep who said that she'd get back (same old story!). He also mentioned that we'd be reaching the airport at about 10:30 AM and to look for flights leaving anytime after that. Meanwhile, we hurried back to the room, packed up and caught an auto to the airport. While in the auto, the rep called back and informed us that there was another 11:30 AM Air Deccan flight and that was cancelled as well. But there was a 2:55 PM Kingfisher flight available and would that be ok. My dad specifically asked her whether that was the earliest flight from Chennai to Bangalore. She confirmed and we said ok.

It was only when we reached the airport, we found out that there were 2 flights, a Jet and a Kingfisher leaving for Bangalore at 11:40 AM. But the reps at the Paramount airways counter said that since they had already booked the 2:55 PM flight, there was nothing that they could do. The Kingfisher people said that changing the tickets from 2:55 PM to 11:40 PM would entail a hugge rebooking fee as well as an addtion in fare charges. It was all very disappointing. I mean, I haven't travelled a single time in Paramount airways and I'm already sick of the way they treated us. Well, what could we do? We waited and caught the 2:55 PM flight. We did make use of the lounge that Paramount airways had in the airport though. But I repeat, I doubt I'll ever book another flight on Paramount :-p. Dad later was of the opinion that the difference in the fare rate might have been the reason they booked the later flght. Whatever, I'd have appreciated beng told the reason :-p.

The Kingfisher flight though a bit delayed, was a delight. The snacks were delicious and the air hostess very helpful. By the time we finished the snacks (the dessert - blueberry mascarpone cheesecake was totally yummy :-D), we landed in Bangalore. We caught an auto to home, during which I, who was totally zonked, handed the baby to dad and slept the whole way. Later at home too, I slept away only to have dinner/get up to feed the baby. Looks like I caught all my sleep in one go :-D.

The trip went a lot smoother than I expected it to. Snuggles was a boon throughout, though a bit fussy, maybe due to the Chennai weather. From then, she also went on to recover from her jet lag completely in about 2 days :-D. Guess the trip shocked the jet lag out of us :-D :)).

3 Comments:


~nm retorted...

A little bit of good and a little bit of bad! :D

Good that at least no hassles at the embassy :)

Way to go snuggles! For being such a good girl! *Sprnkling some anti jinx here* :D


Timepass retorted...

Hope snuggles will continue to co-operate on ur other trips too..Have a nice time


Orchid retorted...

oh good, so you got the visa thing out of the way..now enjoy the est of your stay!