I started writing this blog sitting on the pavement outside the US Consulate in Chennai but the sight of the happenings around was so interesting, that I kept the writing for later. This blog has nothing to do with the consulate or the processes at the consulate.. This is just about the environment and my own experience as a parent, waiting outside the consulate.

A huge crowd of people outside the consulate is what greeted us when we reached there.. Many standing – some in queues and some away from the queues.. Some sitting on the pavement and some sitting on the seat in a bus stand which did not have any buses stopping there (at least one and half hours that I was there).

No matter how early the applicant is for their appointment, they are let in only at the scheduled time; though they stand in their respective time slot queues half an hour before their scheduled time. As for the applicants you have the young adults going for their education and attired so differently – some in formals, some in semi formals and some in casuals. Then there are those who work in corporates and perhaps in other institutions and sectors, with some of them in their coat and suit; a few families with young ones in tow; and the older people going to be with their children perhaps..

Most young adults were either accompanied by both parents or one parent and in the rare case came unaccompanied. When they are ready to stand in their queues, we parents send them off as though we are sending them to the altar of marriage, not knowing how they will find the situation inside, how they will fare, what challenges they will face, whether they will come out successfully or not.. Once we move away from the place and find ourselves in the company of other parents who are sailing on the same boat as we are, then the barrage of questions and statements begin which makes us for a few seconds forget why we are there – “Who is going, your daughter or son? where to? what for? where are you from? My son / daughter is working in the US and I hope my child’s visa is not rejected because of that. I heard that not all the applications are approved. Those applying should apparently show no nervousness and should be confident; they should not pause to search for an answer but how much is that possible?” While the questions are nice to ask and answer, the statements bring a frown not only in the parent making it but also on the parent hearing it.. The fingers begin to cross 🙂

Couldn’t help but draw a parallel to standing outside the Tirupathi temple, hoping to get a good darshan and that people won’t push and jostle inside and the darshan happens as smoothly as possible. The Consulate being the shrine and the person who would interview the applicant being akin to Lord Balaji.

Trolleys and bags of different shapes, sizes and colors accompanied some of the applicants. Since there was someone with them, guess there wasn’t an issue of who will take care of that trolley and bag.

As the conversation amongst parents happen, one can see people coming in for their appointments and those coming out of their appointments.. A few parents can be seen craning their necks to see if their son / daughter is coming out. Many of those coming out, came out with a beaming smile towards their relatives / friends / parents. They are greeted with an equal happiness and with a hand shake and / or a hug and / or a kiss. Then comes, “What questions did they ask you? What answers did you give?” As the answers are given, everyone around goes a bit hush hush, to hear the conversation. As they are ready to leave, the ‘All the best’ from others around could be heard. The fact that none of them had met before or may not even meet later mattered.. Just that echoing of happiness!!

As people come out from the consulate, it is not just the eyes of us parents waiting there whose eye catches them, firstly it is the eyes of the auto drivers waiting there as well, to take them on the ‘ride’ .. They coax, persuade, negotiate as they walk behind the people coming out. No irritation from the ‘potential customers’ discourages them.. The second set of people whose eye catches them, are the people given to begging. They also seem to know what to talk to get people to give them alms – “Everything will go well. Give me money amma / appa” For the person and the family there, this would be like a blessing. And some people do offer a fifty or a five hundred, after hearing that blessing or after coming out in that happy state of mind :-).

As I was ready to leave from there, I saw board of a KTM showroom that had a poster with their tagline – Ready to race. A tagline that seemed befitting for the young adults going for their higher education to the US; and also left me with a few questions.

  • Are the young adults going for their higher education, ready for their race?
  • Are they actually going to race or is participating in the race important for them?
  • Some of them become acquainted with each other as they stand in the queue and wish each other well, but does it strike them at that moment that they will be racing with each other some day later?

It also left me with another question of ‘are they ready to race or are they raring to go?’ While they may be ready to race, I was also left with the thought that they were ‘raring to go’ to a land where they think they hopes and dreams will become a reality.. Despite all the anxiousness, nervousness and fear that may be gripping the young adults or their family wondering what would be the outcome of their interviews, the positive energy that vibrates in the environment outside speaks more than a thousand words – an environment filled with wishes, preyares, hopes and dreams!!!

It is an experience that needs to be experienced!!