Sunday, 21 May 2017

VFS Global -- a Kafkaesk nightmare

Passport to travel

I belong to the elite club of JNU professors. We think the world of ourselves. We are waiting for a revolution, just as the Jews wait for their Messiah. Once in a while we are forced to venture out of the self-sufficient campus established on the Aravalli hills. Why? Silly. To apply for visa of course. We often get invited by this and that Western university as guest and visiting scholars. I decided to go to the Gurgaon VFS, with my visa application thinking it will be less crowded. “Your appointment is at 9 am. Please come 15 minutes early.” said the online mail. I’ll be free by 9.30, I thought and innocently I planned the rest of my day. Here is where my nightmare with VFS office begins. Till 10 am there is no staff in this dystopia except the Safai Karamchari. Finally one young woman troops in, unapologetic. After going through my check-list, she asks me to wait for the Bio-metric staff. The wait is futile. After having wasted the whole day, I demand that I be transferred to VFS Delhi. An email is sent to Delhi VFS to get rid of me. This place is worse than a Government Office, I crib. It should first introduce biometrics for its own staff. My husband nudges me gently: “Keep quiet. They can spoil your application.” Delhi is Delhi, I tell him undeterred but a little anxious. Next day, the airport metro takes me to the gates of VFS Global. It was the first time I was travelling by airport metro and I was indeed impressed. Then start the problems. My water bottle and the humble biscuits I always carry in my bag are not allowed inside. Security is so tight that you can barely breathe. The gate-keeper would not let me in without an appointment letter. It takes me nearly an hour of argumentation, pleading and grovelling to get in. The words of the doorkeeper in Kafka’s famous parable Before the Law resound in my head: “I am powerful. And I am only the least of the doorkeepers. From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each more powerful than the last.” Why do I feel claustrophobic despite air-conditioning? Waiting for my turn, I soak in the surreal surroundings. It is a truly Kafkaesk world. Badly paid employees, all in early twenties, in ill-fitting, low-waist black trousers and velvet shirts, stuttering around like peacocks, enveloped in an aura of authority. Indians have a deep love for uniform. It starts with schools, the malls, the guards, the auto drivers and what not. Nowhere in the world does one see such an intense culture of uniform.

My turn comes fast. The young man at the counter has terrible nails. Must be a hard-core nail biter, I imagine. Well, with a job like this it is inevitable. Cash or card? Card. Access denied. Once, twice, thrice. You have only one card, he asks astonished. What about cash? No, then come again with a fresh appointment. How long will that take? I don’t know. My cup of sorrows is full. They cannot harass me in this manner, I am Prof in JNU my head screams. The echo replies back “darling, you are not at home.” You leave your den and the world pounces on you. All of a sudden the young man looks at his phone and says excitedly “twins”. The neighbour in the next booth congratulates him. Should he not be in the hospital, I ask myself. Probably no leave. He looks at me in the eye, smiles and directs me to an ATM where I could try my luck. Expecting absolutely nothing from machines, humans or the gods, I drag my tired feet to the ATM. Cash tumbles out! I dash back and the rest is history.

I am relieved to be back in the sanctuary called JNU. Recuperating from the ordeal, I try to find something positive in the experience. Maybe the Monaco biscuits will be eaten by some poor, hungry children. I wonder, how will the embassy treat my application? Am I really a Guest Scientist or an intruder? Also I cannot help wondering why we complain about Western arrogance when our own people are so mean to each other?  I sigh, I seek azadi from this absurd world.

Meanwhile I plan my revenge. You are reading it!

Note: This is a Guest Post.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Food Review: Amritsari Kulche at Breakfast Point

Amritsari Kulche with Chole and Tamarind Chutney

Chole-Kulche is a popular fast food in the northern parts of India and is available at every nook and corner is most towns and cities. Most of the Kulchas (flatbread made of maida) though are made of maida (wheat flour without the bran) and lots of oil/ghee is put on it.

However, one joint that I have now visited thrice serves real authentic Amritsari Kulche. Unlike the normal kulcha the Amristsari Kulcha is made of wheat flour and is stuffed. It was just a matter of chance that I discovered the place called Breakfast Point in Prashant Vihar of Rohini in Delhi. I was passing by and noticed the board and since I was hungry I decided to give it a try. The Amristsari Kulcha is served with delicious chole (Chick peas) and tamarind chutney sprinkled with chopped onions. One can order either a single Kulcha (Rs 60) or a full plate having two kulcha (Rs 100).

The food is so yummy that despite the fact that there is hardly a place to sit (only two tables – eight pax - for sitting) but people stand and eat at the standing tables placed outside the shop. Lot many customers also order on phone as it has a free delivery service as well. If you are to go on weekends then be prepared to wait for sometime to be served due to the rush. I even saw few persons being served in their parked cars.

For eating this is the only thing on the menu. If you want something to drink then there is either sweet or the salted lassi (buttermilk). In fact I think such joints which have a fixed small menu are more successful as they served more authentic food then the ones putting several items on their menu but not able to make any one of them properly.

Though the Breakfast Point would get either no points or maximum a single star for their ambiance but for quality and taste they are finger licking good.

Also read:
Pundit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan Paranthe Wala Restaurant