The Saga of the Indian Visa – Part 2

Read Part 1


BLS Visa services was to be shut down on May 20 and CKGS was supposed to take over visa services the next day on. Apparently, CKGS management wanted to do the transition during off-peak period like September and also wanted to overlap with BLS winding down to their taking over, and the Indian consulate gave no such choices. So, CKGS got dumped with thousands of outstanding Visa/PIO/OCI cases in addition to the several hundreds that keep coming in every day. Their initial manpower got overwhelmed and before they could get their people trained and up to speed, they were swamped and things had gotten out of control.

When I reached CKGS office in the Chelsea area of Manhattan Friday morning (July 11), there was a line of 25 people on the side walk, waiting for the doors to open. Most of them had appointment letters but I had no such thing. I approached the security guards and explained my situation, and they promptly let me in to speak to somebody that could help.

I must say this: Even as my visa application process got derailed by the disorganized situation that CKGS found themselves in, every one of their employee that I had the opportunity to interact with at the NYC office was extremely cordial and trying to go out of their way to be helpful. I noticed the same with several other customers who had also run in to visa issues.

I was told to take a seat and they were going to locate my application. I waited for 45 minutes and there was no response. It was the familiar knot in the stomach when you feel Murphy’s law about anything that could go wrong, going wrong was about to kick in. Nearly 2 hours later, after I produced the email communications, they were able to locate my application. There was no sign of the check that I had sent with it.

Just to move the process along, I made another payment with my credit card, and now the application was deemed complete, and I was told that I would get my visa on Monday (July 14) afternoon about 5 PM, which still left me few hours before I rush off to the airport to fly to Trinidad.

There have been several top level management folks that had come in from India to fast-track the streamlining process here since CKGS was being hit with negative publicity in the local Indian newspapers as well as on websites like Yelp. One of those, John Nair, Head of Business Operations, called me on Saturday to comfort me with the message that my passport is at the Consular office in NY and I will be able to get it back Monday evening. He left me his personal mobile number so that I could call him if I had any queries.

Convinced that everything was in order, I spent the weekend packing things up for the trip. On the way to CKGS office on Monday, I stopped by my bank to cancel payment on the cashier’s check, only to be told after 20 minutes of investigative work that it had been cashed by CKGS on June 20 itself. So, they had all the stuff needed from me since June 20 and yet, had pushed me to the limits where my entire world trip was in jeopardy.

I reached their office on Monday afternoon (was even taken out for a nice, hot Thai lunch) and waited for my passport. The minutes ticked away to hours and around 6.30 PM, John brought the news I was beginning to expect, and accept: “Unhone tera passport bheja nahin yaar (They didn’t send your passport)”. Well then…

An interesting switch to my mind that happened at that moment. While waiting to hear for nearly 3 hours, it was the uncertainty that was eating away at me. As soon as John delivered the bad news, I was sort of relieved, now with a clarity of thought, looking to figure things out. John was very sympathetic to my situation, and promised to help in any way he can, and guaranteed he could deliver me my passport the next morning. He was annoyed that the calls he made to his contacts at the Consular office were disregarded.

I first called Kathleen, who was on her way to the airport with her parents, to see whether she’d want to travel a day ahead of me to Trinidad (“No fucking way!”) and called the travel agents to see whether I can change my itinerary and how much it would cost us. After 20 minutes on the phone, I got new tickets issued, got the refund for the cashier’s check and a firm handshake and promise that we will be on our way the following day (July 15).

John Nair profusely apologized for the delay and disruption to my itinerary and offered help to sort out our travels when we get to India. I understand that they have no control over what the consulate does, but I was disappointed with them losing track of my check, which delayed the whole process. He promised to straighten out the entire system in NY before heading back to India.

Gaurav, like a good friend, decided to take me to Anjappar’s on Lexington Ave to drown my sadness with some Chettinad chicken biryani and Old Monk beer. I returned to CKGS the following morning around noon and within a few minutes, the courier with a new set of passports arrived from the consulate and voila, there it was. I hadn’t seen my passport in more than a month, but as they say, All’s well that ends well.

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