Published: January 31st 2006January 31st 2006
Saturday 21st February 2006.
Consulate General of India visa surgery - Mel Milap Centre, Glasgow.
After a lot of humming and hawing we finally booked our flights for India at the beginning of January. We managed to get a half decent deal having left it so late, by using Mick's BA clubcard on the off-chance and getting a cheaper deal than we'd seen 3 months earlier.
So the next stage was getting a visa. Website looked straight forward - surgery in Glasgow every second Saturday ... drop in between 9.30 and 12.00 to leave in your passport and pay fees, then come back to collect between 4.30 and 5.30. Excellent. We can drop in our passports, hit Glasgow for some holiday shopping and then collect in the evening. Erm, no.
We managed to find our way to the Mel Milap centre for 9.40am. Thought we saw a queue but figured that must be for something else. Erm, no. The queue was for visas. We walked in. It was a room FULL of people. All kinds of people. Lots of Indians. Some folk like us, looked a bit lost. Some serious backpackers. Some '2 weeks cheap deal in Goa'. Some saga tours. You can imagine. And in the middle of the room there was a table. And around the table there were 3 men of Indian origin. One of the men had a book of cloakroom tickets. Somebody said that you needed to get ticket off that man. So we did. It was number 107. Next moment one of the 3 men shouted '46'. About 10 minutes later it was number 47. We realised we had some time to wait. We had our internet downloaded visa application forms already filled in, with 2 passport sized photos carefully attached as requested on the form. While we waited however a significant number of people (specifically from the latter two categories above) had panic attacks about the need for passport photos and were given quick directions from like-minded people to a nearby instand photo booth, which no doubt was more than happy to provide the service for a totally reasonable cost to desperate Indian visa hunting types.
Approximately 2.5 hours of people-watching later our number was called to the desk in the middle of the room. The nice gentleman shared some lighthearted banter with us, checked out application forms, stapled our photos to the form and sent us back to the queue. I found out later that all the men around the table were volunteers from the sikh temple next door and that the consulate folk were upstairs.
All this time we were trying to figure out what the process was. It seemed that after people had been called to the desk in the middle, they still seemed to wait around. And every 40 minutes or so numbers were called upstairs in groups of 10. We naievely thought that this was for people who needed fast-tracked to pick up their visas all in one go. We were wrong.
Approximately 2.5 hours later our number was again called and we got to go upstairs :-) The time now was 1.50pm. One number from our group of 10 was called in (and I feel the need to point out that that number consisted of a couple - the girl wearing skinny leggings that were hanging off her and leather jacket, the guy with leather jacket and bright orange shirt buttoned right up to the collar and both with numerous facial piercings - who were applying for a business visa but were refused for some reason). At 2pm the consulate folk retired for lunch to the sikh temple next door (it looked very interesting btw, but I daren't go in). We were advised that they would either be 10 minutes, 15 minutes or 40 minutes. They were back in just about half an hour. When we finally got in to see them we passed over our application forms, enjoyed some more friendly banter, unsuccessfully tried to forget to pay our fees and were out in 5 minutes flat.
We called back at 5pm to find our shiny happy visas ready and waiting. It was a good day.