Oh, India, Where Art Thou?

Welcome to India?

Here’s One You Simply Won’t Believe!

7,850 miles. Twenty hours of flying time, including a 2-hour layover in Dubai. A 3-week photo assignment, plus some fun shooting all lined up, with a professional guide, hotel reservations, national park permits and more. Then, when we finally land in Delhi, India, their immigration officials do not let us enter the country!!

No, this is really true. We landed not having slept for 24 hours, presented our visas and were told that we had somehow gotten the wrong type of visa and, I swear to the Almighty, they made us wait for six hours in the airport and then sent us home. They confiscated our passports, assigned us an escort for those 6 hours to watch us and they put us on a plane for home. I am typing this as we sit in a hotel room in Dubai and I am still in shock. Okay, this is probably a bad dream and I will wake up any minute and tell my wife about this vivid, horrid dream I had.

Now, in our defense, both my wife and I separately went to the online India consular website in Washington DC and filled out the forms, paid our money and got a confirmation. The trouble is we apparently did not specifically request a tourist visa. So, wouldn’t you think that this is an easily correctable mistake? How about paying an extra $100 each and be done with it? No, here are the options they offered.

Option 1: We send you home on the very next flight back to the States. Hmmm, let’s see. That’s $2,000 spent for flights, plus guide, hotels, park fees, etc, down the drain. Okay, what are the other options?

Option 2: Book a flight from Delhi to Kathmandu (seriously!), spend the night there. Apply again for an India tourist visa, wait 72 hours and come back in. Alright, now that might be worth considering, we figure. Then comes the banana peel; “It’s only fair to tell you that since we are refusing you entry right now, there is a good chance that the consulate will refuse your request for a visa, since the computer will pick it up and might think you are trying to get back in for nefarious reasons.” Since I was in frenetic Kathmandu in November, I decided against this option.

Option 3: Go back to orderly, modern Dubai (a 3-hour flight) and re-apply from there. We chose that option.

I have to tell you that this was THE most frustrating experience in all my travels, and I have pretty extensive travel experience. We even had a U.S. State Department official try to help us. He was coincidentally in line to enter Delhi when this transpired and he called the U.S. Embassy. They said this happens all the time and they were powerless to do anything. It is India’s “issue.”

Do the dumb-ass Indian bureaucrats realize that Americans are their friends? No, not the bureaucrats. Americans and the Indian people are joined at the hip. Half the companies in America seem to be Indian owned or managed. We offer opportunities to prosper and they hire our people. Then they open companies back home and hire friends and relatives. Everybody understands that, everybody wins, except for the bureaucrats. Not one rubber stamper in Delhi was empowered to do the right thing.

They lost the chance for me to spread the word about the landscapes, wildlife and culture to receptive travelers back in America. I lost those opportunities and a lot of money (any idea how much a 3-week trip to India costs?). Look, probably the same thing could happen in the U.S. with our bureaucrats. And, in all fairness, we met some lovely Indian citizens at the airport in Delhi who sympathized with us, shook their heads at the incompetencies of their bureaucrats, and shrugged their shoulders in resignation.

So, today we are going to try to meet with someone from the Indian Embassy here in Dubai, after spending two days waiting for their consular offices to open. Hopefully reason will prevail and we’ll be able to enter India. If not, well, what can I say? One thing for sure… I won’t go back again.

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