23rd January 2015 – Ankara, Turkey
Vincit qui, se vincit. Your fights are only against yourself.Or if you are an Indian traveller, against your passport.On a day when a solitary embassy in the middle of nowhere,had me bent over and served, Raki was my only resort.
One of my principal deterrents, when it comes to travelling, is my passport. The Indian government is not keen on working diplomatic angles with other countries or promoting reciprocity, to make our passports more travel-worthy. And it is my opinion that the reason lies within the fear of forex imbalances, which are expected given the state of the burgeoning middle-class in India, and their unexplainable ‘goal-of-life’ to visit Amrika or Yurop, and buy more dollars and Euros in the process.
Make no mistake, I am a very proud Indian. And whatever the reason for the travel worthiness of my passport, I have to work around this. I have been to over 30 countries, and before this project, the only visa that I had a problem with was Israel. But then, I had walked out of the interview, they didn’t reject me. But during this project, the fact that I was unemployed, has caused me some consternations. France had to be convinced of my intentions. Bahrain rejected me. And now, Georgia.
So, my plan was to stay in Turkey for a 45-day period, before I catch a flight to Paris on 3rd March. Since my visa allows a duration of only 30 days, I had to do a ‘visa run’ somewhere. And if you are a traveller, I am sure you know what a visa run is. The easiest option was Georgia which, just 2 years ago, was visa-on-arrival for Indians. No idea what changed.
So, I need a visa for Georgia, but the process looks fairly straight-forward. There was an online reservation system, where I had to mention at which embassy I could pick up the visa. The Georgian embassy in Turkey is in Ankara, so I mentioned it. (Actually, this is the ONLY reason that I am visiting Ankara). I even wrote 2 emails, to the Georgian embassies in both Turkey and India, if there were any problems with such an application. Both the embassies had not even bothered to reply.
I left early morning for the Georgia embassy – or the Gurcistan embassy as the Turkish call it – which was far away from the city, in a region called Oran. I could take the metro till Kizilay, and from there take a bus. I tried to negotiate the bus route for nearly an hour, before I realised that this was not an easy process with the language barrier. And I had set an appointment for my visa interview at 11 AM. I bit the bullet, and hailed a taxi.
After a harrowing 45 Lira ride – I kept staring at the meter throughout – I was in front of the world’s end. Or that’s how Oran looked like. There was a road, there were no cars anywhere, and I couldn’t even see beyond 20 metres with all the snow and fog. But in the middle of all that, there was the Kazakhstan embassy.
And then, the Gurcistan embassy.
I walked into the embassy, and gave a printout of my application and the appointment letter. One look, with no flinching face, and I was told. “Sorry, you cannot apply here”.
Wait. What? Why? WTF!!!
“This embassy accepts applications only from Turkish residents. You can apply only if you have a residence permit in Turkey. Since you don’t, you will have to apply in the Georgia embassy in India”.
Your retarded system told me that I could apply here. And I even sent 2 emails to confirm this, but you retards do not even check your mail, did you? – That was me, screaming. But inside my head.
I argued. Debated. Discussed. Pleaded with them for another 15 minutes, dropping my English to pathetic levels so that they could understand.
No go. After 15 minutes, I was a fuming man walking out of the door, nearly punching the security guard on the way after he told me to shut the door behind me.
I reached my CS home, with a head so low after 2 days of tiring travel, and another day of disappointment. My host saw my face so glum, or she must have, because by evening she had some of her friends over and they decided to set up a Raki party for me.
Raki what? Raki is Turkey’s national drink, or so you could say. It is an aniseed-based liquor, with a taste so strong that you have to actually chase it with food. It is colourless, but turns a beautiful milky white when you pour water or put some ice cubes into it. Drinking the raki is the easy part, the more time-consuming thing is to set up a mesa, a platter of small food in small quantities that go along with the Raki.
I longed for some alcoholism after the last 3 days, and I think I was rather justified in getting drunk and sleeping like a log.