September is a wonderful month to be in Europe. The weather was still beautiful, but the crowds were gone. After packing some gear on my bicycle I set out to visit friends and family. They lived everywhere.
Pencil and paper and renaissance examples.
At my father’s house I sat down to apply for my Indian e-visa. An e-visa, or electronic visa, is a visa that can be obtained over the internet. After the visa is granted it can be collected on arrival at the airport in India. It is much faster than the standard bureaucratic procedure. It took me most of the afternoon and I was still struggling with it after dinner. At first the questions were straightforward and even then there were many surprises. Gender had three options and the form also allowed for a name change. When it came to your country of birth the list to choose from was comprehensive. It contained Wallis and Futuna and even Pitcairn was featured which, according to Wikipedia has only 50 inhabitants. It also provided Tibet and Taiwan as options which I was sure would anger the Chinese but the Indian bureaucracy, apparently, is afraid of no-one. As to the choice of the level of my education I had to look up what the word matriculation meant, though illiterate was an option too. Then more challenging questions followed and you have to be careful, because once your application is refused you lose your money and you will have to try again. So I searched the internet to see what the right answers were on some of the tougher questions. For example the one as to what my profession was. Obviously telling them I was unemployed wasn’t a good idea and would invite other, more difficult, questions, like, if I thought being lazy and hanging around on the sofa all day was such a wonderful life, and maybe I should do something back for society. So I chose the option self employed / freelance and even then they wanted to have a name of a company as if they were doubtful anyone would ever hire somebody like me as a freelancer. So I had to come up with a name and after ample consideration I gave them the name of this blog. Then my session expired and I could begin again. My father’s place of birth, my mother’s place of birth, their birthmarks, favourite toys and other stupid questions. The countries I had visited in the past ten years, complete itineraries, hotels I had stayed at, restaurants I had eaten at, travel agencies I had used, receipts of the above in US dollars and corrected for inflation. Unfortunately, the names of the countries I had visited in the past ten years didn’t fit in the box so I left out the ones that I thought might be looked upon unfavourably. My religion was asked and, yes, in India you must have one. It’s unthinkable not to have one. Who created you? You think you come from apes? Ha ha. Had I visited India before? All details must be given, dates of entry and dates of exit, visa numbers, all people I had met, their addresses and the addresses of their holiday cottages and so on, and so I decided I had never visited India before. Not ever. Inexplicably, my session had expired again. In the end came the really dumb questions: whether I had ever been caught trafficking Plutonium, did I know what it looked like, what it smelled like or where you could buy some? Whether I had ever worked for Pakistan’s Intelligence Service, if so, please provide a list of undercover names including all passport numbers and credit card numbers. Whether I had ever been operating an illegal drugs laboratory and was it really that easy to make a lot of money with that. And of course these are all trick questions and if you answer ‘yes’ your visa will be refused. In the end you have to state that the answers you have provided are all to the best of your knowledge and well, um, let me think… Yes. Now please give me the visa.
After that I cycled around the country some more. Then my visa came through and I could fly to India.