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Friday, May 15, 2009

840/- DD 1000 /-

A long line of people standing outside the wall of the US consulate (USEFI, if it is still called that) in what was then Madras, now Chennai... needless to say, a long long time ago.

A 20 year old boy who entered the queue at 5:30 AM (people had told him to go early) only to find that there were already over 100 people in the line to get a Visa the next morning.

We are talking early nineties where you had to go with a bunch of documents, be within the first 200 people in the line, be screened, be interviewed, pay fees and then get a Visa stamp later that afternoon.

If you had a scholarship and all your papers, chances are you were directly called to the counter to pay money and skip the interview part, provided you managed to get in that morning. All you needed was the right applications, the documents (I-120 or whatever.. ), your passport and a DD (Demand Draft) drawn to an exact amount of 840 Rupees for the entry fee. No DD meant, no entry into the gates!

The US consulate taught you very early on that "Money = Possile Entry. No Money = NO Entry", be it the consulate or the country. Capitalism 101..

Yours truly had the DD. In fact the documents were checked and rechecked multiple times as there was nothing else to do in the line from 5:30 AM to 9:00AM under the sodium vapor yellow light. There was also the constant checking of the pockets to make sure that the Visa fee of 3000+ rupees was still there!

A PSBB dude called Guru was behind me and we did some idle chit chatting. He was worried that he would be rejected for various reasons. I was more worried about losing the 840 Rupees. The girls in the line came prepared with magazines to read. Some folks in the line ahead were drivers, helpers, servant maids for the pampered chosen ones who came later in the morning in their fancy cars, all dressed up to take the place of the servants who had slept on the pavement the night before and that showed you another face of Capitalism..

Have servant, you dont have to wait on the pavement yourself. No servant, you have to!

The best part was the third glorious glimpse of capitalism from that very same pavement. This line of almost 300 people... wait, did we just read 300?

Yes. They would only allow 200 people in, but 300 would line up hoping that some of the folks in the line would be rejected for improper documents, stress burnout, sickness, servant reaching the gates before the real applicant, or the MISSING DD!!

Apparently all very common happenings on that line as another seasoned veteran of two attempts later explained to me while waiting inside.

There was one chap who was making a fortune using that line of people.

He had a large drum full of chai/Coffee loaded on the back of a bicyle. He also had bottles of "Bisleri" drinking water hanging from all sides of the plank that he had wedged into the carrier. Then there were magazines, cheetos, etc. all sold at premium pricing to the people who dare not leave the line.

Every now and then he would shout "eightfortydeedeethousandrupees, eightfortydeedeethousandrupeeeeeeeeesssssssss" just like they sell Idly and Vadai in the south Indian railway stations.

At first we did not understand what he was saying. Then we figured out that he was selling Demand Drafts taken in favor of the US Consulate for Rs. 840 with a nice markup. He was selling 840 rupees for 1000.

He would come close to us and say "Saar, DD irukka check pannu saar.. illena ulla vidamaatanga theriyum ille? 4 DD dhan baaki irukku"

(Sir, check if you have your DD.. if you dont have it, they won't let you in. You know that right? I have only 4 DD's left)

This was all round service. He must have made at least 3000 rupees in those 3+ hours with his enterprise. Now that is capitalism for you.

Chances are he is a CEO by now and he never had to sit on any pavement to get his Visa...


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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...


have you ...

- stood in line outside a us consulate in bombay for visa appointment? check.

- stood in line as adjunct line standee with new wife (line position owner) in madras for visa appointment? check.

- hovered outside said consulate with that quirky mix of anxiety and eagerness that not even a first time father has (now that's saying something)? check.

- stood in line in ciudad juarez's embassy for an h1-b home country visit requirement bypass? check.

don't know about your 840-for-1000-dd vendor, but victor garcia is surely famous. i can vouch for him. was one of his first clients.

after i got rejected by the mexican embassy, managed to beg my way back into the usa, got the necessary documents fedexed overnight, he helped me go right back the very next day and succeed in my endeavour. those were dark days, and that is an eminently bloggable story (though i've forgotten many details, the plot is fresh in my mind!)

- s.b.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 7:08 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...


if it is eminently bloggable

you should blog it


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 9:55 PM, Blogger Dot wrote...

Interesting scenario at a consulate of a country that I've never been.
Does this happen only in Madras or other parts of India too?

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 11:52 PM, Blogger Kavi wrote...

Demand Draft gets a totally new meaning. Doesnt it !!

And so is entry to a country that prides itself on innovation !

I guess if you life demands innovation anywhere in the world...innovation will be served.

On demand. Perhaps in draft mode !

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 7:08 AM, Blogger Lazy Blogger wrote...

That guy was sure enterprising. When i was trying to get back home to mylapore from the consulate, an auto driver fleeced me out of 100Rs. His logic was simple - according to him, I was going to make thousands of dollars in the US, a 100 rs is only 2 dollars and surely I could spare that? I couldnt argue against that and then got yelled at by everyone at home!

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 8:39 PM, Blogger ugich konitari wrote...

These days, there exists a thing called Visa Facilitation Centre, a sort of official interface between you and the consulate when you submit your form, several days earlier, having already got an appointment.

The guys at this place now run a bus service and lugguage locker service, supposedly for out of station types who come, and for a hefty official bus ticket price ( > Rs 100, p. p. ), you completely bypass the massive 3 digit queue, and enter the portal directly. The consulate allows no bags and stuff inside, so these guys also provide lockers for a similar price per person.

Incidentally, the two wheeler based cofee, tea and idli chaps are still around for those of us, who still stand in queues....

In Mumbai, that is.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 4:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...


i will.


that's like a godsend for older or out-of-station (or both) folks.

- s.b.


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