Monday, 16 September 2013


Have you ever read the book "I heart New York"?  Well, it's about a British girl in her mid twenties, who takes the first flight out of London to New York to get over a bad ugly break up (she finds her boyfriend cheating on her, in case you were wondering). While I understand the need to leave a country when upset, I don't see this working in case of an Indian girl in the middle of a bad break up. To start with she'd have to have a valid visa to the USA, which for just a tourist visa would take her about 2 weeks or more to get. But even if she has a valid US visa already, she'd need to apply for something called an "Airport Transit Visa" to get there. Most flights to the other side of the world are through the European Union or UK and require a Transit visa which is not only expensive to begin with, but is also time consuming to acquire. By then she'd be more frustrated than before.  

Why do Indians not travel as much? This is precisely the reason. My grandfather often flaunts his American passport and says with pride "I can travel 166 countries with this". Even though he has no intentions of making those trips at this age, I am sure it is a relief to know you don't have to go through paperwork and stand in long visa queues to travel to another nation.

I recently experienced something similar. I got an internship in Colombia and I was mighty excited. But soon the excitement died down when the paperwork started. I got my Colombian Visa in a day, after I submitted my papers and I was given a courtesy visa which was free of charge by their ministry of external affairs since I was going there to help teach kids. But that was not the real problem. The real problem was when I got to the airport they said I cannot travel coz I do not have a "transit visa" for "Germany", since I had to switch flights at Frankfurt. I was confident I didn't need one because I checked the rules online and even my travel agent assured me that I won't need a transit visa because my layover was for less than 12 hours and I have a visa to the final destination country. I checked a lot of other sources and all the information was so scattered and on sites which were not very authentic. Some say you only need one if you are travelling through two Schegen countries and others that you need one if your even flying over one of them(just in case you have an emergency landing).

Well bottom line, they made the rules stricter more recently so I had to come back and apply for a German transit visa which cost me 6200 Rupees, only to sit at their airport for 7 hours (and change my travel agent).The irony of it was my visa to Colombia was for free. The German visa delayed my travel by two weeks, only because their appointment dates were so booked and I was made to go back this one time for not having an already booked ticket. Now you tell me, if they say the visa processing takes anywhere between 3 to10 days, when do you book a ticket for? What if you book it for the 3rd day and they give the visa on the 5th day? Ugh!

Imagine a world without borders. It would be really confusing and pose many problems, I guess. But there was a time when there were no passports. That was the time when explorers could just get on a ship and name a piece of unclaimed landmass after their name, nations could conquer and rule other nations without a war and trade spices and other goods without an import or export duty.

“During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons (to keep out spies) and to control the emigration of citizens with useful skills, retaining potential manpower. These controls remained in place after the war, and became standard procedure, though not without controversy. British tourists of the 1920s complained, especially about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a "nasty dehumanisation"…..Passport standardisation came about in 1980, under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).” – Wikipedia, passports.

I agree with the ‘dehumanization’ part. Everything from having to prove your purpose of visit to standing in the queue and being directed like cattle and treated with mistrust is rather dehumanizing. But unfortunately that’s what the world has come to. 

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