I can now officially go to India.
Today’s visa adventure started before dawn. I’d set the alarm on my mobile phone for 7 am, and, in fact, I barely got any sleep. Just after I’d drifted off my phone informed me, ‘It’s time to get up.’ I really should change that. I got dressed in the darkness and left the hostel. For some reason, my watch informed me that it was getting on for 6:30. I hadn’t used my phone for quite some time – and the clock was still on British Summer Time.
I got into the centre of London nice and early, then, and proceeded to break my fast at McDonald’s by Charing Cross Station. I arrived at the High Commission of India on Aldwych for 8:30 – the opening time – and discovered a great queue stretching round the crescent opposite all the theatres and fancy restaurants. I walked along the queue. I continued walking along the queue. After further walking along the queue I reached the end on the other side of the D of buildings made up of India House, Bush House and so on.
I was expecting something like this, having read about it on IndiaMike.com. There were a good few hundred people in the queue and, with all the other people who joined it after me, I reckon the number of visa applicants today was possibly into four figures. The queue went down fairly rapidly, considering – although it still took nearly an hour to reach the front. When we got there we were issued with cards with our ‘Q’ numbers and a time to submit our applications.
My time was 11:30 – 12. When I got back things became less simple. Inside you go up a staircase if you have a yellow ticket or down half a staircase if you have a white one. Mine appeared to be pale green (but then I am slightly colour-blind). Without thinking too much about it I went into the wrong visa hall where the was a crowd of people just inside the door. My Q number was X253 and the number on the display in there was 370 or something. That didn’t seem right.
A short but confused conversation with the chap on the door outside (the confusion was all on my part), revealed that I had to go upstairs. Again there was a crowd just inside the door. More confusion ensued. I ended up half figuring things out, half following a bloke who was in the same boat as me. Turns out you have go past the crowd to the far end and wait in a queue to hand over your application (and £30). That done, I was given a receipt and told my visa would be ready in an hour.
I went out again (took some photos of Trafalgar Square), came back and waited. Eventually, my number came up and my passport was returned to me, complete with visa – valid until 20 May 2008. I smiled.
Later I – again, eventually – met up with my former colleague and lovely French woman, Morgane. We had a drink, chatted. The conversation took a somewhat metaphysical turn, and she propounded a Gaia-like notion that global warming and both over-population and declining birth-rates are the Earth’s way of healing itself. Naturally, I don’t much care for hippyish ideas, but apparently that makes me grumpy and cynical.
Later I found out that England were beaten 3-2 by Croatia. Although I support England and always follow the major tournaments every other year, I didn’t have much sypmathy with the result. Steve McClaren may be a decent manager, but I’ve never seen how he could possibly be the world-class coach the national team needs if it’s going to do well. Who next? Terry Venables seems like the logical choice – his financial scandal is well behind him, he’s well-liked and he didn’t do too badly last time. But I suspect that he doesn’t have the necessary calibre. What about Guus Hiddink? Or maybe Felipe Scolari would be up for it this time.