Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Preparations for Travel

For quite a while our "The Rivers Movement" project group had planned to go for a second time to India. After our first visit in November 2008 our friends from India had visited us here in Yorkshire in June 2009, and we had planned to return the visit. The "Rivers Movement" project's goal is to create awareness of climate change by means of art and writing. I had joined this group in 2008 based on my interest in geo-centric interfaces, and I contributed to it by doing some of the photography and documentation. Originally the second visit had been planned for November 2009, but then got postponed due to a variety of schedule conflicts. Finally the travel had been booked for April 2010, but then came the volcano - and air travel was at a halt. We had to cancel the travel that time, which was quite a disappointment to everyone. Finally travel was arranged again for the 6.January 2011.

For travelling to India a visa is required, for which the passport needs to be sent to one of the consulates in the UK. I needed my passport for other travel and could only send it at the end of November. The official processing time for it was given as 10 working days, so time should be sufficient. But it was cutting it a bit close. The online application process just had gone through a change, and a new "system" was implemented. The visa application form now includes questions about the applicant's religion and about the military service. At one point I realised I had made a small typo in one of the phone numbers to enter - but there was no provision of going back and changing, once the form had been submitted - had to start filling in another form from scratch. The new online application process seemed to be a bit convoluted, somewhat counterintuitive and with very few explanations, but after about two hours everything was done. The first major problem came a few days later when our team leader, Brian Lewis, had indicated in his form that he is a free-lance writer. He received a phone call that this would be in violation of a "tourist visa". He quickly had to send a fax, stating that he is in fact retired. This was to be done the same day, as he had done his application through an off-line process, which still used "the old forms", and these would expire the same day. Another problem was uncovered by our co-traveller Gina Hawkins, who received a phone call that her photos were not right - they needed to be at least 2" by 2" (5cm x 5 cm) large. This exceeds standard passport picture size, so she had to get quickly larger pictures. I became a bit worried, because I just had sent two standard passport pictures, so I tried to inquire online about the status about a week after I had sent the application. The status inquiry was negative - my passport had not been in the system. This was just after the December-freeze had befallen Britain, with delays in the postal delivery. So I send an email to the online inquiry, with my data. Simply the online reference numbers did not help, only after I had also sent the postal tracking number, it was confirmed that my application had been received. No comment about the photos, so I thought everything is fine. After the christmas holidays I became a bit worried, as I still had not received my visa after more than 3 weeks. and I realised that I had forgotten about those bank holidays which brought all economic life in Britain to a standstill. On 30 December, Deborah Bullivant, our other co-traveller, sent us an email that she had just received a postal mail from the consulate, rejecting her application - because of wrong passport size. She had to travel to Birmingham and hand in her application in person, this time with the right pictures. I got really worried now - had gotten a SMS that there is a courier mail from the consulate. This would probably also contain my visa rejection, and I already prepared for a trip to Birmingham myself. Luckily the post was actually my passport, with the visa in it.

On 4.January Deborah picked up her visa in Birmingham, and now everything was ready for the travel.

No comments: