You know how foreigners keep coming to India to seek enlightenment? With the right attitude, they could save themselves the trouble and a fair bit of money and just stop at the visa application stage itself.
So I went down to the office that has been contracted to handle passport and visa applications for the Indian consulate. I had to renew Nene’s passport which meant that I had to take him along.
We went back and forth on this given the coronavirus outbreak and finally I decided to go ahead because who knows when this is going to end and there might be fewer people at this time.
Turns out I was wrong. The place was packed.
The contractor has moved to a smaller office which means people were more packed in that ever. There’s no place for signage so everyone crowds at the counters to ask anything. Even getting a token requires asking for one from a human being.
They also said on their website that the closest MTR to the new office is Wan Chai when it’s actually Causeway Bay so we ended up being later than I would have liked.
I had made the rookie mistake of checking the Indian consulate website and not the contractors website. Turns out (surprise! Not.) there are a whole lot of other documents needed, including one that required me to back to Wan Chai to get some affidavit done. Because god forbid there be an Indian bureaucratic process without an affidavit.
I admit that I snapped at the girl at the counter – and by counter, I mean she was manning the photocopy station as well as taking photos. To her credit she kept cool and explained to me everything and was very helpful. It’s hardly her fault that the Indian consulate doesn’t update their website or tell people to check elsewhere for the updated instructions or has ridiculous requirements.
So then we walked back to Wan Chai, huffing and puffing in our masks. Turns out the Indian consulate has happily outsourced this process to the Hong Kong government which provides this service free of charge. Basically you write your name and address on a form and that you swear the info is true. Then you wait half an hour and swear before someone that what you wrote is true.
How is this helpful? Why is this even a thing? Would this deter anyone from lying?
Who knows? Who cares?
Only saving grace is that the Hong Kong government is very organised about this. They even took my name and contact number in case anyone who visited was found to have contracted the dreaded virus.
Please note Indian office not only did not do this, there was not even a bottle of hand sanitiser in sight. Oh HK I will miss you.
Take all forms and go back to Causeway Bay. On the way, eye buses speeding down empty streets longingly thinking of throwing self in front of one. Think of children and desist. (By this time had sent Nene home)
Back in the Causeway Bay office, all the same people seem to be milling about. Turns out their computer system is down.
Gweilo man at counter keeps asking how long it will take and grumbles that he has to go to work. Arre Mr, you want to go to India no? This is India only. Learn zen and the art of twiddling your thumbs.
Indian aunties who I asked what was going on got very agitated at the thought that I might be trying to cut the queue when I went up to the counter to inquire and kept hovering behind them. O aunties, take a leaf out of the Buddha’s tree and chill.
I was curtly told nothing would get done that day and I left quietly. Hopefully the aunties were satisfied.
I had an epiphany of sorts on my journey from the notary (or whatever it was. The woman at the counter got a bit agitated when I said “notarized”) and the passport office. The ridiculousness of being shoved off to a different office to stand and say I was telling the truth just seemed too much to bear.
What are we doing really in this life? Just shoving around pieces of paper and trying not to die till we die.
Honestly, I’ve had enough. I turn 40 this year and I feel like I’ve had my fill of life’s delights. I sure there are more left to sample but I’m not greedy. I’m sure it doesn’t get exponentially better than this. Everything we do is just our genes trying to survive by convincing us that we must stick around.
I mean, yeah, I’m going to because I brought two people into this world to do more of the same paper pushing (my bad). But it all does seem rather pointless.
I suddenly stopped caring if I got the passport done or contracted the coronavirus while doing it.
Speaking of which, the streets were lined with people queuing up for some “necessity” or other. I was willing to understand the quest for masks (up to a point) but now people are stockpiling toilet paper and rice. In one of the richest cities in the world with an almost 100% literacy rate. Still at the slightest hint of trouble, people seem to lose all sense of reason. It quickly devolves into me me me.
If this is Hong Kong, then fuck it, I have no hope for anywhere.
I floated home listlessly, didn’t bother with my son trying to do his homework or trying to correct his substandard answers to some poetry analysis (poetry analysis! At age 9!) and played a board game with my daughter, going along with her attempts to give herself the greatest advantage.
Obviously this state of mind will not last. But who knows?