Loosing A Passport Isn’t Fun
Since the appointment was about fifteen days away, I was off again on yet another jaunt to meet and greet my fans, the customers. Turned out to be quite an eventful trip.
The main event and attraction being that I’ve now lost my passport and did I forget to mention before that my boss had committed to our main stakeholder in the US that Sumir will land in the US by November 1? Yeah, minor detail.
This is what went down that day
The boss then was Ignacio. So the Boss, one of my direct reports Abhijit and I were in Buffalo, and we’re flying into Chicago for a meeting, and I go the visit the men’s room, and very thoughtfully placed my passport on a shelf in the men’s room and walked out!
I’ve picked up a hired car and we’re doing drinks at the hotel, when I get a flash of brilliance and realize that I’m missing something? Ah yes of course, you’ve guessed, that silly document called a passport!
See we are quite happy as drinks progress, and as I whisper into the ear of my direct report that we need to leave and leave NOW, the happy air seemed to have vanished. We make some ridiculously silly excuse to the boss and go back to the airport. I’m sure he assumed that we were up to no good!
Where is the dammn thing? Where could I possibly have left it, and to figure this out, I retrace my steps. Then it comes to me, I had this case in hand, and it contained a whole bunch of airline and hotel loyalty cards, and most important, the passport. We had no checked in bags, so we got off the plane and I had gone to the bathroom.
So the police complaint and other fun formalities with the Indian High Commission follow.
Now for some strange reason, one that I’ve not figured out yet, immigration officials on both sides of the pond actually want to see proof that you are tagged as a resident of a country and all that jazz. Even though I haven’t the foggiest why, I knew, paper required-go get.
So I end up at the Indian High Commission in downtown Chicago, they are very helpful and provide me with a certified distinction. Its called an Emergency Landing Certificate. Now this is a scrap of paper that proclaims that I have the distinction of being a man who lost passport in a foreign country. This paper is a passable substitute for the real thing and I’m allowed out of the US.
Getting out of the US was easier than getting in to India.
Outbound OK – Inbound Not So
The outbound had me departing from Bombay, whereas on the inbound, due to full flights I arrived in to India via Delhi.
When my name is announced by the crew of Lufthansa just as we land, or maybe it was United, I’m thinking that HSBC has pulled some strings to get me out early or something. Nothing could be further from fact! Anyway, I am alowed to disembark first, and the moment I step out of the plane, I am greeted (not) by a uniformed police officer, who escorts me to immigration. Nice? No.
I’m still not getting it, and it is only when I go to immigration the actual scene unfolds. I present my emergency landing certificate, and right of the bat I’m told to step aside and this immigration official is clearing a long que one by one, painstakingly slow.
As I wait rife with frustration, for the enture line to get cleared, I’m asked to step into a cordoned off area, which was filled with suspicious looking characters. I later find out, that these are wanted crminals, people who are deported, and have such other colorful credentials.
I’m sitting with this motley crew for hours now, and finally I got a bit aggressive and demanded to be cleared so I can get on with my plan to get to my office in Pune. At first they are confused why someone who has been detained, such as myself, is throwing attitude, and so they send for someone senior to come and attent to me. A man with an air of authority comes up to me, and asks for my passport, and I in turn produce a”Landing Certificate”, and he’s now rubbing his hands with glee. He looks me up and down, and then asks why I was deported from the US. I am shocked, and patiently explain to him, that I’ve not been deported, but that I’ve lost my passport, showing him all the evidence. He looks at me rather doubtfully and then resigns himself to the fact that this is not some deportee.
Since I departed from India via Mumbai, and the record of my departure does not exist in Delhi, i’m subjected to yet another wait, while my Landing Certificate, that itty bitty piece of paper is taken away from me. They say that there is no record of my having left the country and unless Bombay can verify the details I will be “detained” (do read that as arrested), no doubt to check if I can provide some motivation to be allowed to leave. Now I’m a bit nervous, and am almost pleading to be allowed to go. Finally after much persuasion, I depart with a sigh of relief.
Getting a new Passport Only Sounds Simple.
I ask about the process to get a new passport, and I’m told its real simple, all I need to do is go to the passport office that has issued my earlier passport and apply for a new one.
I now have another itsy bitsy piece of paper which is a receipt that the Landing Certificate is with the authorities in Delhi. And so I land in Pune and sheepishly tell my boss (who is still in the dark) that I’ve lost my passport and I will make all attempts to obtain a new one expeditiously.
Don’t forget, I have a date with the US Consulate to get a work permit in about ten to fifteen days, and without a passport that is a bit of a damper. More important, it was my boss who sought and received a favor in terms of an expedited date.
He says something along the lines of, I don’t care what you do, get a new passport before the Visa hearing date. Ouch!
So off to the passport office I go with our admin manager, and apply for a new one. They say they can issue a new passport in five working days, Yippee! But, the landing certificate needs to be sighted by them first.
I assure you that I only look stupid, but to prove that I’m not, I’ve scanned the Landing Certificate. So I produce a printout of the scanned copy (looks like an original). Everything seems to be in order and I am asked to come back in three days to collect the new passport. The boss and I will after all be ale to keep our commitment to our customers.
Well easier said than done, I arrive to collect the passport, but no, I’m told that the original landing certificate needs to be received in the passport office, before the new passport can be issued to me, that a scanned copy duly printed will not be proper.
Ok so I assume that it will be sent by the Delhi authorities by courier or something, but a clerk tells me that it can take up to two months to arrive. I’m in despair, and am advised to go to Delhi and see if I can “expedite” the process. I’m off to Delhi (at my cost) like Jumping Jack Flash and decide to follow the trail, from the point where the certificate was taken from me. That would be the airport. I’m told that the Landing Certificate is not retained by them, that it is sent immediately to the Ministry of External Affairs for verification and further processing.
I follow the trail like a sniffer dog sniffing for drugs or some wanted crminal, and after running around in the ministry am told that they are in no way involved and that they don’t even know where it might be.
I go back to the airport and meet someone who has a little more knowledge about these things (I think), and am told that it gets sent directly to the local passport office in Delhi. Sniff, sniff, sniff, and I arrive at the local passport office and after hunting around, find the department that deals with this. It is now about 12 noon, precariously close to lunchtime, and its a Friday.
I meet the clerk, and “motivate” him to look and see if they have received the damn document. He looks up a ledger, and traces it. He says yes no problem, they will process it on priority once the officer on duty (who is on fifteen days leave) resumes. More motivational dialogue and he takes it to another officer who has the substitute authority to sign, subject to further motivation. I’m told that it will be done, i.e. sent by post to the concerned authorities who are ready with my new passport. I plead my case, blah, blah, and more motivational efforts are required. finally, he agrees to deliver the copy to me in my hand, sealed in an official envelope.
I go back that evening, collect the envelope like it is a treasure, which is has become after all the motivation involved. I carry it like a baby, and the next day arrive at the regional passport office to collect the document.
The Regional Passport Officer is a stickler of the rules and demands to see the original Landing Certificate. The clerk hasn’t even bothered to take the envelope from me, and so I dig it out of my satchel and give it to the Passport Officer.
He starts visibly, looks at his clerk just to make sure. The clerk assures him that I carried it by hand, and what happens next leaves me cold. He calls the local police to arrest me for tampering with official documents. Well he does not arrest me, but conveniently confiscates the treasure. Now I’m really pissed and give him an earful, which was exactly what I should not have done.
He says that unless the original document is delivered to him via official courier, he cannot issue my passport, which becomes a bit of a challenge, since he’s holding on to it!
Finally, I track down a friend of a friend, a travel agent who is buddy buddy with the man, and the next day after tendering an unconditional apology a receiving a lecture not to interfere in Government business, I finally get the passport.
Moral of the story, don’t loose your passport overseas, unless you’re absolutely sure you’re up for a very entertaining time.