Sunday, January 27, 2008

Chennai consulate sucks

With no prejudice, and a 1 night stay, I have to say I am disappointed with Chennai US consulate. You did not live up to your reputation!

The first series of experiences related to the visa interview, and the associated hotel stay, that I described in an earlier posting.

And now, the Chennai US consulate people are on their toes trying to annoy me. I had planned a 20 days window to allow visa processing (which takes only 2-3 days in the mighty Delhi). The gentry took 16 days just to let me know that they cannot find the petition information in their system, and need the originals again. Duh!!! Why did you approve the visa in the first place without looking at the petition details???

I was at my brother's wedding fuction, some good kms away (Jaipur, on 18th Jan), when I received a call from the consulate requesting the original documents again. Now I had to wait for 4 days till we got back to Bangalore and drop the petition AGAIN in their local office. I was bound to fly back to US on 24th evening, but thanks to the grossly ineffecient staff at Chennai consulate, I had to reschedule the flights.

How much more inefficient can you be, the greatest nation on the Earth? You cant even live up to your fat promises? What does it take to get a genuine visa stamped in Chennai? I am not going to apply at Chennai consulate again.. it was a big mistake..only because it is closer to our residence in Bangalore these days.

If you are scheduled for a visa restamping, I advise you to stay away from an Indian post... you have better chances at a Canadian/Mexican post. You suck Chennai (consulate)!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Dare face the book?

So I made a debut on FaceBook also. Apparently its following has been growing like crazy. I found it easy to setup.. except I cannot find a way to feed recent posts from another group's page.

Here is the profile badge:

Prashant Chopra's Facebook profile

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Grand Orient experience

We had our non-immigrant visa interview on Jan 2nd at the Chennai consulate. I searched online for a decent hotel nearby, and found the 'Grand Orient'. Apparently it is a 4 star hotel, priced at a little over 120 USD per night. Little did I know we were in for a big surprise. The staff at reception were dressed very casually. They were not even courteous. They didnt ask for any room preferences (non-smoking v/s smoking, double bed v/s twin beds, etc.). In a haste a porter came and took out bags to a nearby elevator...rushing to get in before us - the guests. Well, we ignored that part, we just wanted to get to the room and relax. As soon as the room door opens, a foul stench filled our noses. It was a combination of a very damp conditioning and something rotten. The porter was in a hurry and took a leave quickly. Only when we entered the room area we realised that it had two twin beds, small size. And the bed sheets were stained. I couldnt stay there for more than a minute and called the reception. They promised to switch the rooms. When we reached the other room, it had a double bed for sure, and it lacked the foul smell. I was about to get happy, until I saw the stained bed spread, no hot water in the basin tap, no bath tub, stained lamp shades, no batteries in the TV remote, and a makeshift ventilator stuffed with cardboards. We realised we had been ripped off..and just wanted it to get over with. Radhika ordered some plain drinking water, and the mug had soda mixed with some alcohol. She almost puked at the first sip! Oh dear god, that was one horrible stay I must say!

The second day had more surprises in store. The visa pictures we had taken at a Costco store in the US were rejected at the US consulate. Come on! Who will better know the requirements for visa pictures than a mainstream US store??? You gotta be kidding me! Well, we got off the consulate in a hurry.. the pre-screening lady had given us 30 minutes to get back with new pictures. No surprises: there were auto-rikshaw wallahs waiting outside for just the people like us. We hired one of them, who took us into a nearby urban street, where a shabby little store-owner was waiting for us with a digital camera. Our pictures were taken, and transferred to a desktop PC where another skilled person started manually removing all shadows and halos from around our projections.. using MS Paint. Boy was he skilled at his job! He did that within minutes, and we had better quality pictures than the Costco ones, for half the price!

The two good parts about this trip were (1) the complementary breakfast at the hotel, and (2) the world class cabin service in the Kingfisher Airlines flight from Chennai to Bangalore. Hail Kingfisher! You are raising the bar for the quality of aviation service in India!