So like an idiot I applied for and got accepted to a conference in a European country. I won’t mention which due to general paranoia.

In my excitement, I forgot about the visa. Or rather how painful it is to get one from the developed world when you are from the developing world. The humiliating hoops you have to jump through. The bureaucratic loops you have to run through.

Their forms with invasive but pointless-seeming questions, the lack of ALL the information you need until you follow some click trail, where hidden in some corner is information you must put on the letter that you already requested and got printed out without the information.

Did I mention the letter? I had to request changes THREE times from the ever-patient but somewhat scatty conference organizer. The last one I thought was perfect had print-out smudges because their printer bled apparently. Apparently, proper printers are not available in whole first-world university but we of the third world would still want to move there. I don’t know how I’m going to explain the smudges.

Then had lunch with V’s friends last night and was moaning to them, and the lady was like “oh it’s very easy, you just need the letter, an original and a copy” and I’m like “what? my original is a copy.” Because noone posts anything anymore. Everything is soft copy. So now my precious letter is not up to the ‘original’ standard. Plus, in some obscure corner of the website I’m stalking, it says I need to have details like my passport number on the invitation letter which I do not have because conference invitation letters never include this stuff. So I’m paranoid now, because I don’t know if I can do a fourth letter, not to mention how long it would take to get one posted.

And then there’s the question of bank statements which I need to apparently get stamped or attested or some such because apparently it’s possible to doctor the Internet printed stuff. Hilariously, the lady I was dining with is very wealthy and when she went for a UK visa interview, they refused to accept her printed statements, so she called the bank manager and he came down to the consulate with a stamp to do the needful. Obviously, my much more modest savings account will not warrant such service.

It doesn’t help that the cost of applying is a lot, and I’m no longer in a position not to care about these things. And anyway applying for and getting rejected on a visa is not a small thing. It gets stamped on your passport forever.

The whole thing is like the unwanted gift that keeps on giving. The more you do, the more you get sucked into doing more because you already did so much already. It’s exactly like gambling, except you need to know at which point to cut your losses and run, but I haven’t determined what point.

I oscillate between wanting to chuck the whole thing (and frankly, if I get rejected, I’d be more pissed about the loss of time and effort than actually not being able to go) and having flashes of enthusiasm about the thing.

I was asking V if he gets so stressed out about documentation and he said he doesn’t. Me, it’s like a traumatic experience. The last time I went through this was the PhD application. There is always some piece of paper that is not as perfect as it should be. The whole thing is set up to ensure that you fail, I’m convinced.

I am coming to the point where I believe that international travel is not the pain of all this. Either I find a way to acquire a first-world passport, or I just travel only to places that allow visa-free travel on an Indian passport. Luckily, I’ve checked off all the must-sees on my bucket list, and now I’m leaning more towards what the venerable Obama called the ‘bucket’ list.

Edited to add: woke up from nap to find V watching this Makayalsm movie in which the female protagonist is waiting for her visa to Ireland to be ptocessed! And finally she decides not to go and to stay in India and do organic farming instead. Solo creepy! Is it a sign I wonder?