A day at the Bangladesh Visa Application Centre in Kolkata: A pleasant experience that needed to be told
We keep mentioning and talking about our unpleasant experiences often. They are also frequently important to bring focus on specific issues, but it is also equally important to speak about the good ones - ones that make you happy and amazed at the same time.
Words like passport offices and visa application centres often strike a terror for many. It is the same for me. The many discourteous experiences from the past come haunting me all at once, creating a nervous and anxious mind, which struggles to fathom how to handle similar worrisome situations. But some experiences do tend to be happy as well.
This is from a recent such experience, which came as a most pleasant surprise and needs to be told: perhaps, it will help to ease similar anxieties and nervousness among others.
A recent prestigious invitation to an international seminar followed a request to also present a paper at a conference in Bangladesh. Happy at the thought of visiting the country for the first time, my excitement almost numbed out the minute my rising stress levels started to signal a red alert. My nervousness had already set in following the thoughts of gathering documents and applying for the visa. As I failed to find a proper reply from colleagues, who have or were also travelling, I called up the Bangladesh Visa Application Centre in Kolkata directly and was pleasantly surprised to see how cordially a girl, at the Centre attended to all my queries. She even instructed me to save money, if I can get the visa photograph done from somewhere else. I, on the other hand, insisted on getting my photo done from the Centre itself, which will save me time from travelling to another place to get the same work done.
Soon, I reached the place and was handed over a token and a small application form. Each token number was for each applicant. There was a continuous announcement being made for specific token numbers to reach a specific window to get the work done. Though there were numerous windows, I realised that there were more than 70 people before me. I was in doubt. Probably my uneasiness had kicked in again - will I be able to even reach a ‘window’ to submit my application that very same day? Nervously, I asked the guard at the entrance, who answered with a smile- “Of course, you will be able to submit. All tokens which are distributed on a specific day, get their work done on that day itself.”
Scepticism turned to amazement
The words seemed reassuring, but I sat down, still sceptical. Spacious rooms with wide, clean chairs were arranged neatly across the place. The side walls had enlarged photographs from various periods of Bangladesh's history. The rim of the entire place was dotted with windows. At these counters, few people were standing in front, but the crowds moved very fast. The announcement kept rolling out token numbers in relation to form filling, submission and passport collection and it was indeed amazing to see the crisp speed in which the work progressed as the announcer kept on mentioning token numbers in quick succession.
In no time at all and within just a span of an hour and a half, more than seventy people had already finished their work and it was my time. Only then did I realise that I had forgotten my passport at home. That was almost a double-face palm moment for me and I was expecting some stern looks or at least some sarcasm; none happened. The lady at the window greeted me with a smile and explained to me that all my papers are in order and I need to come the next day with my passport. Happy as I was with her good nature, I would want to also point out how rare is it to meet a person who greets you with a smile, close to office-closing hours, while she has been handling applicants from 8.45 am. And here I was, standing without my main document. I left, indeed irritated at my own mistake, but nevertheless happy with an experience, which was worrying me sick.
A day later, the experience was even more surprising. As I entered with a token number, the guard called out to me that it was already my number and I should visit the so-and-so window. I was still walking in and had not yet entered the place. I rushed, informing the man at the window that I did not have any time to fill up the form as I was immediately called in to reach his window. The man at the counter just smiled, took my papers and filled up my form. I did not even ask him. Within the next 45 minutes, my work was done, including applying, getting my visa photograph taken and finally submitting all documents. In between, I guess, I was happy enough to have a cup of tea at the cafeteria of the Centre. While walking out after submission, I thanked the guard at the entrance and the lady who was distributing the token slips, took the elevator and left the building feeling not only relieved but happy.
We keep mentioning and talking about our unpleasant experiences often. They are also frequently important to bring focus on specific issues, but it is also equally important to speak about the good ones - ones that make you happy and amazed at the same time. Who knows, someone somewhere might find a sense of relief the next time they have to visit the same place for a Bangladesh visa.
(The author is an Indian academic. Views are personal.)