All about visit visas
By : Bikram Vohra
They came. Got them two transit visas because their relatives know my relatives, and my relatives said that if you can’t do it for relatives who can you do it for so please do it since it is a question of face. We are big on face, like face is what it’s all about.
They drove to our home from the airport and my wife said don’t ask them for the money for the visas, it won’t look nice. So, I took the first opportunity when my wife was out of earshot and said, that will be SR600 for the visas.
The man, relative of my relative’s relatives, said would it be alright if we paid you the equivalent in India since giving you SR600 now would ruin our shopping budget. I wanted to tell him what he could do with his flipping shopping budget in as graphic terms as possible but my wife came into the room and said, of course, of course, no problem at all, pay it any time you like. They have gone.
And we are still waiting for the time they like to pay it in India. What do you do? Write them a letter. No, says my wife, don’t dare do that.
So, what I did was write them an e-mail. I got no answer.
There exists this ridiculously misplaced notion back home that everyone who comes to the Gulf is not only rich but won’t miss the money he has to spend on others. It is bad enough having to fork over official sums for semi-strangers but it is even worse when you have to bankroll their shopping. Either way, there is no guilt about sponging, no feeling of self-consciousness, after all, they won’t miss it; they are living in the Gulf. As if the money was picked up on the streets and every one of us had that childhood fantasy of a money tree in the garden. In fact, they do not even say, thank you for services rendered.
By this very token there also exists the totally erroneous concept that all of us expats can just trot down to the authorities and pick up sheaves of transit and visa applications for friends and relatives and that when we do not get them in 20 hours we are being deliberately dastardly and mean-spirited.
Relatives convince themselves that you don’t really want them to come and tell your people that you have changed; you used to be such a nice, generous person before you went to the Gulf. Quite often, you have this conversation over the phone. Long distance. “I cannot get the visas in a week, I may not be able to get them at all, I know, I am sorry, well, if Uncle Sasha got them for Rohan’s in-laws, good for Uncle Sasha, Rohan and his in-laws, let them celebrate, I don;t have that sort of clout, no I am not raising my voice, yes, I do wish to help, I am not showing a lack of interest, I said I was trying to do it, I know they were looking forward to it, I can’t help it if they will be heartbroken, I can’t get them visit visas, because visit visas are not given for extended honeymoons, because that’s the way it is, why can’t they set their heart on some other place, yes, yes, I’ll try again.”
Occasionally, they manage to get here. And you are told, look after them, make the right impression, they will come back and talk. After face, talk is the next big mountain, people will talk.
So, on Day 2, the husband says he wants to buy a 3D movie camera so that when the baby is born they can tape her early days. The wife simpers.
Good, you say, buy one. You know people, he says, you are well connected, can you get us a good price. Me, I don’t know anyone, I say. Nonsense, says my wife, he knows them all, go on, help them get a concession, you got one for yourself.
It is their baby, why should I get involved. The next thing you know he’s saying, and we’ll pay you for it in India, is that OK by you, then we can buy some gold from the souk before the price rises further. And you cry softly in your cornflakes.