To go or not to go? That is the question. Visa officers answered!


Part 1- Don’t underestimate the power of Schengen Visa Officers.

This trip was in the talks for almost 3-4 years. It was meant to happen this year. And how!!

We came up with a mini agenda for the trip that went thus:

  • finalize countries
  • budget the trip
  • decide the possible dates
  • book the tickets
  • book the stay
  • get the visas
  • finalize the itinerary
  • fly

We arrived at the dates that would more or less work for everyone without conflicting with work priorities and on the home front. After analyzing the pricing across different airlines and routes, we picked Emirates, and booked our tickets. Confirmed tickets and stay bookings are a part of the mandatory travel proofs for tourist visa processing. Most sites we researched suggested that we even book the internal travel. We had 2-3 itineraries and didn’t want to risk booking internal tickets and incur cancellation losses. We decided to do it after procuring the visa.

After buying the tickets, we booked our stays in all the intended cities through Booking.com and picked the cheapest ones lest they charge payment to the credit card. Yes, they collect the card information at the time of booking including the cvv number. While airbnb had awesome options for a smaller group, booking.com showed more options for a larger group. All our stays allowed free cancellation until the intended day of check-in barring one where free cancellation was allowed until 4 days before the check-in date. Items 1 to 5 on the agenda- a big tick!

With the air tickets and stay bookings out of the way, we started processing our visas. We assumed this to be just another formality and that it would be a cake walk. A few of us who have traveled abroad on work had until now not encountered any hassles with visa approvals. We however were aware of instances where the visas were delayed and when they finally arrived, it would be too late and the people abandoned the travel plan. We were advised to apply in Italy as France had supposedly upped their scrutiny ever since the terror attacks. Quite understandable. But we didn’t want to apply in Italy because a few colleagues who’d earlier applied there, were summoned to the Mumbai center for a personal interview. Dragging a 11-member battalion to Mumbai would be a trip in itself and the prospect didn’t seem appealing. We decided to apply in Switzerland instead. And we did. And waited. And were quite composed. As we waited, a few of us regrouped every 2 or 3 days or discussed over lunch and finalized the detailed itinerary. And then they came. The visas. In instalments. Over 4 torturous weeks :/ With the first rejection that came within a week of applying, our plans came crashing down and things were in a limbo. Nothing progressed the next 3 weeks and wtih more rejections coming, we abandoned the plan. We were holding back on cancelling the air tickets or stay bookings as the cancellation charges were the same till the last day before the travel date. Hope is a good thing, after all!

Img credit: Google

At this point, our dejection turned into angst directed at the visa process and the officers. The nature of rejections were absolutely random. All had sufficient and more bank balance to show. All had consistent salaries and payslips and ITR returns to prove. We had the necessary leave sanction from the work place and NOCs obtained from the schools for the 3 teenaged children. We had confirmed air tickets and confirmed stay bookings. The reasons of course were either lack of means of subsistence or lack of proof of return! I mean, really?!! All our covering letters had all our names and passport details listed as co-travellers and we explicitly stated that it was a group travel. So instead of giving up without a fight, we thought we should still try and NOT go even if the visas are through the next time 🙂 Watching too many cinemas or soaps can do this to you. You lose the faculty to rationalize that the loss will still be yours if you don’t go. Monetarily, mentally, philosophically 🙂

A lot of discussions on Quora and Tripadvisor weren’t giving any favorable leanings towards re-applying. A few Schengen visa myths we busted:
1. Some suggested we apply in the same country.
2. Yet others suggested applying in a different Schengen state.
3. A few dissuaded from re-applying.
4. A few agents we casually spoke to said that usually rejected visas will be rejected again.
5. A few said that the visas will be granted if we apply after a gap of 6 months.
6. Many suggested doing it ONLY through agents.

None of the above suggestions hold water. It is random free advice.

And then, there were a very few threads that said we can reapply anytime, but with more documentation that supports the reasons cited in the first rejection. This was random good advice. What do they say about you wanting to hear/listen/infer/discern ONLY what you want from what is said or read? Yes, so we scooped out only those countable number of conversations that sounded encouraging. Even otherwise, how will we know if we don’t try, right? Yes, we are unrelenting like that. So after many days of going back and forth and ditching the sour-tour, we gave the process a phoenix-like quality, and decidedly stayed positive. All extra documentations were pooled together and once again appointments were fixed, submitted, and then the next round of waiting began.

In less than 5 days, 5 of the 6 visas came through and again one was rejected on grounds of lack of proof of return. With about two weeks time, we had to give it one more go. We didn’t know what possible risks a third application entailed. We didn’t have it in us to leave one person and go, especially because she was the one instrumental in getting the others to re-apply. She however kept insisting that we should all go ahead without her. Yes, we will, but not without giving it another try and we still had a little over 2 weeks. This time, we gave a covering letter, a collective representation from all the rest of us with visas. And also an additional proof of her return- the marathon registration which I’d mentioned in my previous post. And what do you know! She got it on the 9th day as there were 4 holidays in between! We had exactly 7 days for our flight.

A couple of us did a night-out that Friday. Booked all the internal travels, passes, discount cards. Re-booked some of the stays in an attempt to bring down the stay costs, with better proximity, and with better safety. We ‘travefy-ied our day–by-day itinerary and also Google-trip-ed, offline-ed some maps, and also some tours. Items 6 and 7 on the agenda- another big tick! Our trip was ON!!!!

We have large hearts. We decided to forgive the Schengen Visa officers. We decided to forgive the processes. We forgave the eye-rolling, smirking reactions of the VFS folks. We decided to make a stately visit to the Schengen states. We are not only relentless, but also magnanimous like that!

Next post- Poguma, pogadha? – An eventful start to our journey!

And we’ve learned how to caution!


A tiny rat (real one!) sneaked into our room last night. All the four Vs were up and about trying to chase it away. And we finally did. The rat wouldn’t take the route we showed. It probably thought it best to leave the way it came. The moment we opened the door to the balcony, it ran out. We discussed strategies on keeping the rats away and finally realised that there isn’t much we can do other than keeping the doors shut.

This evening,  Varun decided to take things in his hands. And this is what he came up with. A notice stuck on the door through which the rat sneaked out. The slate contains illustrations of the ‘equipments’ or ‘gears’ (he said that) that we need to keep the rats at bay. And he was dressed to kill 😉

Varunisms- May’16


Deep conversations and some.. Most of our ‘serious’ conversations these days seem to start with him saying, ‘Listen, I want to tell you somethin..’. No typo there. The fellow has an acquired accent, dunno from where!

Varun: Ma, N is very bad.
Me: Why? He seems nice. He’s a star cricketer too..
Varun: I want to tell you something. (pause)
Me: Well?
Varun: Getting a grade or being a star is not important.
Me: Okay!
Varun: Really. I’m tellin you.
Me: So, what is important.
Varun: Behaviour.
Me: Oh?!!
Varun. Really. I mean, in school. At home we can be how we want.
Me: Right!

——————-

Me: You know how to fry vadams? (rice crispies if I can call it that)
Varun: Yes, I know.
Me: Tell me.
Varun: Light the gas with the firing machine and fry the vadams in fire.

Was not aware that my boy looked at a gas lighter as a firing machine;) It must be the commando games.

——————-

To confirm or make sure I heard what he said, this is how he asks:

Varun: Ma, do you copy?

[or]

Varun: Ma, do you read?

According to him, he is an FBI/CIA/Commando in the making

——————–

And this one takes the cake..

Me: Varun, it’s 11.00 PM and you are still not asleep :/
Varun: (Jumping on the bed even with the light switched off. yeah, my monkey!)
Me: You are going to get one tight spank.
Varun: (Silence for 10 seconds. He then gathers his pillow and sheet, bundles them under his arms and heads out of the room).
Me: What do you think you are doing.
Varun: I’m going to grandma’s room.
Me: Why?
Varun: Listen, I wanna tell you somethin..
Me: Listening..
Varun: I hate you.
Me: And why is that?
Varun: Because you are strict.
Me: Is that wrong now? You don’t listen if I’m not.
Varun: Be kind. Try telling kindly.
Me: Kindly how?
Varun: Try saying, “Varun, please stop playing and go to bed”.
Me: And you’ll listen?
Varun: Try me.
Me: Ok, let me get this straight. All I need to do to get you to listen is, say kindly?
Varun: Yes.
Me: Okay.

And the kindness worked for 6 days. We now go back and forth between our old and new ways 🙂 As always, never a dull moment, I tell ya!

Kids!


dosamanVyas wonders why women are awarded ‘bachelor’s’ degree. Why indeed?!

The other day, he quickly called to show me the new OLX ad where the exasperated wife seeks answers to the snoring problems of her hubby. She tries OLX. And then he asks me, ‘amma, you want to put appa on OLX too?’

His favorite pastime now is making dosas. The best way to distract amma from prompting him to study.

Jokes or hints?


Vyas, for some reason, is sharing quite a few contextual jokes with the mom and dad these days.  Sample this:

To mom:

“Ma, read this joke where A tells B that a brilliant artist can change a smiling face into a crying one with a single stroke.  For which B says that his mom does it with equal ease”!

To dad:

“Pa, a teacher tests a kid for his numerical abilities.  She asks him how much money will he have if he already has six rupees with him and his dad gives him ten more. To which, the kid answers that he’ll have six rupees. The teacher frets and says, “You don’t know basic addition”. The kid says, “You don’t know my dad”!

#Discretion #cheekiness #toomuch!

What to say?!!


At 12 (going on 13), the older brat wonders thus on a community he has created on G-Plus:

“….and y is ronaldo kissing a shoe?must leave a bad taste in his mouth.”

At 5 (going on 6), the younger one reacts thus when I tell him how beautifully he draws and that he should try attending a drawing class because he’ll enjoy it..

“Oh why, oh why, oh why did I grow up?”!!!

Surely I’d heard him wrong, but on further prodding he says,

“Why did I grow up mom? So much work to do – writing, drawing, reading, cycling, playing!! “

A bright future awaits..

Much ado about.. well…


Yuck post ahead. Read at your own risk. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

To Varun: Hey you vaandu! You cannot sue me for sharing this bit (about what you did of course!) with the world because I obtained your permission. Am recording it here just so you know what an entertainment material you are. And yes, anna inspires you.

Varun to me: Amma, I want to use the ‘rest room’. I think I want to poo.

Me (half-way through my dinner): Ok go! Call me when you are done (this too shall pass!)

Varun (back in a few seconds): Ma, this poo is bad. Refusing to come out.

Me: SSSShhabbaaa. Ok.

Varun (after another minute): Ma, I think I really want to go now.

Me: Poyenda (Just do it!)

Varun (runs to the loo and is back again in few seconds): oh hum…. Not coming.

After a few seconds, he stands, squirms, grins.

Me: (exasperated) What is it now?!

Varun: I just farted. Twice.

At this moment, anna is shaken out of his P.G.Wodehouse reverie. He reminds me its a while since I used garlic in my cooking!!

Rowdy fella!


The two boys are living out the phase of ‘extremes’ now where they are either veeerrrryyy loving and look out for each other, or are ready to tear each other’s hair apart. Varun triggers off the battle mostly.

Daddy V was preparing Varun for his bath. A weekday, but Vyas had the day off (study holiday!). Varun had to go to school and the dad and I had to get back to work. Grandma was away and Grandpa- the one man army, had to manage the two brats. The conversation went something like this:

Dad V– Grandpa is alone, so behave.

Vyas & Varun– [Silence]

Dad V to Varun – If Varun causes trouble, Vyas will tell grandpa. Grandpa will smack him. If Vyas troubles, Varun will let grandpa know and Grandpa will smack Vyas. Is that clear?

Varun (without batting an eyelid) – If Grandpa is the cause of trouble, who will punish him? Varun will.

V(s) are brilliant like that


The kids befriended Ruby, an adorable ‘doggie’ as Varun calls her, at the resort in Chikmagalur. Vyas enjoyed feeding Ruby with an occasional biscuit or a slice of bread.

He struck a monologue with Ruby, and was caught in action by a friend and my sis:

—————-
Vyas to Ruby: Hi Ruby. Pasikaradha? Bread sapadariya? (You hungry? Like to have some bread?)

[A pause and then realization dawns on him and so continues].

Oh, sorry, you don’t know Tamil right? So, do you want to eat a slice of bread?

[Would have loved if Ruby had rolled her eyes at him!]
—— ———-

Varun eyes someone drinking Fanta/Mirinda or some such drink in the train.

He leans into me and fidgets with my hands, kurti, bag and mutters something..

Me: What is it Varun?

Varun: I feel like drinking something Orange in color.

——————–
(You can replace anyone in my place here, and the conversation would’ve still been the same)

Varun: Enakku thoppa valikaradhu (I have a stomach ache)

Me: Why da? What happened? Want to use the toilet?

Varun: Ille. Enakku camera kudutha sariyaidum (I’ll be fine if you give me the camera)

and the ‘stomach ache’ theory/tactic was stress-tested for several of his wants. For chocolates, for walking, for dinner, for Sprite, for tea, for boating, to climb up, to climb down, for a bath, to wear a jean… Get the drift?