Thursday, 22 March 2007


Waited in the rain queuing outside the Indian High Commission to get a Q-number from the open window. Waited in the wrong queue until a nice man behind me explained why there were two windows.

Collected my yellow, dated, Q-number and entered the embassy through a side door, passed through an ancient security detector gate, up some steps with municipal linolium and into the visa hall. It was full. The electronic numbers were on B39. My ticket was number C41. It was 9.30am. Over a hundred visas to be approved before me.

The floor was old parquet, the counter was like an old 50s post office - dark stained wood windows with clutches of people crowding round. Grey plastic fixed seats filled with the waiting stretched across the hall. A big crowd congregated at the far side by the exit. Completely unsure about what was going on and where exactly I should be I sat down and waited for the buzzing of numbers turning to inch closer to B99 when at least we'd get to the C-numbers.

B63. I got my paper out. A new crowd of people gathered at a wooden doorway which occassionaly opened for forms to be passed in or a stack of passports to be passed out.

B71 the man at one of the windows got a bit trigger happy and kept pressing, the numbers buzzed through to B79 before any of the holders of those numbers had an opportunity to present themselves. People crowded up to the windows. Chaos ensued. The chairs cleared a little though.

Buzzzd. The numbers turned over. The C light lit up. 00. buzzd. C01.

C22. A look around. Its a great leveller, the visa hall. We're all here. Woman in an extremely expensive fur coat and scarf, serious travellers, groups, boys off to Goa, people visiting relatives, a woman organising some kind of tournament (much loud discussion of buffet breakfast tickets, itineries and the participants on the mobile phone, despite there being many signs forbidding their use).

C23. A man who came in after me presented himself to the window. Your ticket is C57, the woman behind the glass said. I've been waiting for ages, he said. I'm sorry, she said, watch the indicator and come back up when your number appears.

C41. I finally get to a window. It takes 5 minutes to process the form. She gives me a print out with my number on it and says collect your passport from window 1 in an hour. I contemplate going out to get a coffee somewhere, stand in the doorway feeling the chill breeze and decide instead to sit back down and wait some more. About half an hour later I hear the man at window 1 calling out numbers B23, B56 and then suddenly unexpectedly C41. I go up wafting my print out. A woman protests, I must have missed my number, my number's B.. The man cuts her off, you must come when I call the number out please wait, make room. I pass my print out through the window and recieve back my passport with visa and leave the melee behind me, descend the dark hallway and escape back through the side door to the street.

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