We’re embarrassed to admit this, but we felt a little entitled to receive an Indian tourist visa. After all, who wouldn’t want us to visit their country? We’re good people. Our intentions are pure. We’re curious about people, food, languages and cultures. We would never abuse a tourist visa for some other purpose like business or missionary activities. We don’t have much money, but we’d be pleased to spend some of it exploring an exciting place we’ve never seen. We promise not to cause any trouble. And for the record, lots of other countries like us enough to let us in for a visit. So why are you giving us such a hard time, India?
Applying for an Indian tourist visa was an eye opening experience for us. It was the first time we’ve ever had to appeal at an embassy for permission to enter a country. And due to the fact that we are homeless, unemployed low budget travelers who haven’t been in our home country in a long time, it’s safe to assume we weren’t the most impressive specimens to appear before the consular officer.
We’ve heard nightmarish stories of others applying for Indian visas and all the potential ways it can go wrong. We were prepared for the worst. But we showed up at the Indian embassy in Rabat freshly shaved and punctual with smiles on our faces, exact change and all requested documents in duplicate. Then we got our spirits promptly trampled by the consular officer’s secretary who was supremely unpleasant to interact with and seemed to assure us with her scathing glances that if it were up to her there would be no way we’d be getting visas. But it wasn’t up to her, thankfully, and we were awarded visas after what ended up being a surprisingly simple process.
But all of the preparation, the hassle in Spain that led us to apply in Morocco instead, the secretarial abuse and the interview with the consular officer who wanted details about our unconventional lifestyle had us worried for a time that we might not be visiting India, even though deep down we felt sure that the world’s largest democratic republic should pour us a cup of chai and welcome us with open arms. The process has led us to reflect on the privilege we bearers of blue passports enjoy. Many of the Moroccans we’ve met have never been permitted to step foot outside of Morocco. Many upstanding Turkish citizens we met last year have been denied visas to European countries for no reason other than that they were born in Turkey. As citizens of the United States we have so often taken for granted the freedom of mobility that our passports provide. So thanks, India, for taking us down a notch. We’ve been humbled by you even before arriving.