Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Note From Work

I'm on the consular line here in New Delhi. I'll be doing two years of consular work here, along with my colleagues. We each adjudicate around 100 visa applications each day, and it's simultaneously boring and heart-wrenching. Today, I had to decide whether or not to let a woman travel to the U.S. to see her dying mother, who has been diagnosed with liver cancer and is deteriorating rapidly. Unfortunately for the poor woman who was applying, this is a very common story and one that is more often than not fraudulent.

She actually came to my window yesterday for the first time. She barely spoke a word, and was softly crying as I read her application form. While she seemed genuinely heartbroken, her supporting documentation was thin at best. After some conversation (a combination of English and patchwork Hindi), I asked her to come back with more information from the hospital in the States. She protested that her mother was dying, the holidays were upon us, and she needed to get her visa quickly before the Embassy closed.

Without going into details, suffice it to say that there were many reasons to suspect fraud in her case. But lo and behold today she showed up again, still silent, still crying, and with much more detailed paperwork from the hospital. It was very sad to read about her mother's condition in the report, but it seemed clearly real. (NB: Next time, I'm going to cut to the chase and just call the hospital to verify facts...) After some more questioning I approved the visa. Because we were closing early today and won't open again until next Tuesday, I asked her to wait in the lobby while we did some emergency visa production work.

Here's the best/worst part. Her brother (or cousin?) accompanied her, and he is an American citizen. He came up to me afterward and told me he was an Amcit and that I had made the right decision, he knew I was concerned about fraud, etc. etc. I said thanks and shut the blinds on my window (it was the last case of the day, of course!). I went to a late lunch, and when I came back, someone came up to me and handed me a hand-written letter. The brother had come looking for me again, to give me a thank-you letter, telling me again that I had made the right decision, and that he was proud to be part of a country that judged people with feeling, etc. The letter was very nice, and it was great to get. But at the same time, it just made me more nervous that this woman had pulled the wool over my eyes.

In talking to colleagues, there were many suggestions (Call the hospital! being the most sensible one) and many more stories of heart-breaking stories that were ultimately false. I think I will never know if this woman came right back to India or if she overstayed her visa. Heck, maybe her mother actually lives around the corner and is fine, or maybe she's in the hospital but is doing fine, or maybe she really is sick. It's a little like being in a David Mamet play, like House of Games or Spanish Prisoner (not like Glenn Garry Glen Ross, thank goodness).

My gut says she's going to the US and will return, but I'll be interested to see what it says in 6 months if I get a similar case. I guess the moral of the story is to see the best in people, but call the hospital!

I Hear the Train A'Comin...

First post! This is a test and a greeting from India. Alizarin suggested I keep a blog to keep track of my experiences in India. Hence, - based on my title at work (i.e. vice-consul as in second-in-command, not as in "consul in charge of vice," which would imply a very different kind of blog...).

My goals for this blog are the following:

- Keep a record of my life in New Delhi
- Stay in touch with family and friends
- Write consistently!

I'm listening to Johnny Cash right now, who I've really been getting into ever since I saw "Walk the Line." Jackson and Cocaine Blues sure are snappy numbers.

Friday, December 30, 2005


This is really a test post, to see how to add images...


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