Monday, February 18, 2008

Two Quick Posts With Nothing in Common

I Went To the Consulate Today.

After a number of attempts, some real, others imagined, I finally managed to find the U.S. Consulate here in Kolkata. My colleague, who assisted me, was not allowed to enter because she is not an American citizen. I went through one very heavy armored door to a small room where I was asked to empty my pockets, surrender my cellphone and state my business. I then went through a metal detector and a personnel gate before entering the compound. I was then escorted by an armed guard to the main building, where I struggled with another heavy armored door, asked to empty my pockets again and go through another metal detector. I was then patted down and asked again to state my business. I told them I wanted to register my passports so I was shown to another room, again with a heavy armored door. Seriously, they must have been a foot thick.

The air conditioning was just lovely - the air was fresh, no soot on anything, and very nice furniture. I stepped up to the window - it was heavy protected with thick bullet proof glass - about twice the defense of a bank teller window at home.

I told the gent my business and he pushed two cards at me to fill out and took my passports to make copies. After completing them I asked about absentee ballots. He gave me forms to send back to Chicago.

After completing all my tasks, he returned to the window and said, "Welcome to Kolkata, madam, and please take this with my compliments." He pushed a DVD in my direction, entitled "Being Prepared for Pandemic Influenza". Welcome indeed.

Sometime I think I'm a Walking Wallet

Every day, I argue with vendors of all kinds because as soon as they see the colour of my skin, the prices rise dramatically. I am paying the price for my lack of understanding the language. A person at my office offered to schedule bottled water delivery to my house. We received one bottle last month delivered to my flat. He tried to charge me 690 rupees for one bottle of water!!!!!! At the office, the company pays 40 rupees for the exact same bottle. He tried to convince me it was the delivery charge. I asked him, "Where is it coming from, Australia?" :-)

14 comments:

Sujoy said...

Highway Robbery Madam! You set a contract price, and for the favor of regular business, the vendor agrees to a set price inclusive of delivery. Get a local to help you on that. Unfortunately, you have summed up the reality of your color in that part of the world!

Cheers,

Sujoy

Anonymous said...

Americans have managed to keep the entire economy in their hands. They consume 80% of the world's energy.. care a damn about global warming and they have done precious nothing about climate change

Although I don't have anything against Americans .. I do hope and wish that they learnt to be more accomodative and sensitive to local aspirations

Sharon Stone and Angelina Jolie are the greates examples of being UN ambassadors for PEACE in IRAQ and KOSOVO..

Maybe this is a sweet redemtion..in action ... you are being charged more than 1000% extra for a bottle of water...

But all said and done...thats the case all around the world.... Most people try to fool unsuspecting foreigners..One piece of advice I would give you is try to look for the MRP written in the bottle

Anonymous said...

The comments of the previous poster somehow stereotyping Americans is absolutely uncalled for. The lady was ripped off, she is writing about her experience... she or anyone else reading her blog is looking for a lecture on Americans... so just chill and get a grip!

To the blogger: please keep writing. I lived in Calcutta for 23 yrs, then in the US for 20 years, and am looking to go back again. Your experiences are entertaining and informative... please keep up the good work. And, I do admire your guts. Moving from Chicago to Calcutta with a teenage son.. not a joke and not for the faint of heart! But, you know you will survive and as I have learnt by coming to the US, it is so fulfilling to learn and live about another culture. All the best!

Geoff said...

Pretty tight security at the consulate. Sounds like a public High School in the Bronx.

As for that figure of 80% (from a previous poster) I'd have to say that figure seems a little dubious. Try http://www.nationmaster.com/index.php for facts and figures on consumption and production. It's hours of fun!

Keep your chin up, and both eyes open!

Anonymous said...

OOof my gawd, what a rip off!!

Makes me feel ashamed.

Who's this jerk of a vendor? He should be slaughtered.

Avrajyoti Mitra said...

I think you should learn a bit of Roman language and culture, since you are living in Rome. Try to get used to the water. For a month, have boiled water, then another month, adding some disinfectants to it (quite a few available in the market), and then try to shift bit by bit to normal water. Because, it is your "simple bare necessities", and paying 690/- (!!!!) for a bottle is a drain on your money, no matter what your income is. And, yes, shopkeepers and vendors do have a tendency of this 'racial abuse', mainly because of the American tourists, who spend money like anything when they come to India. May be you should carry a placard "Aami tourist noi, aamar taakar gaachh nei"(I am not a tourist, and I do not have a money-machine at home).

Doyel said...

Hahaha! Lol! Jeanne, I think you can try out what Avrajyoti said!! He is so funny! But I know that these experiences are not so funny for you.:( It's better to have a full knowledge about the prices of things here so that when they are charging double, you can argue. The best way is to take any Indian with you who can converse in Bengali with the vendors. Infact, arguments won't be necessary as the vendors wont charge more at that time.

Anyways, how are ya and your son Will? Waiting for your next post.

Anonymous said...

Why dont you install an aqua guard water filtration system at home ?

Anonymous said...

Where is it coming form, AUS? Nice one!

Lyndsey said...

I'm so glad I just stumbled across your blog. I plan to move to Calcutta around August-September this year. Your stories and experiences are really helpful for me. Maybe we can even meet up when I come.
Cheers
Lyndsey

Lyndsey said...

I'm so glad I just stumbled across your blog. I plan to move to Calcutta this August-September. Your stories are really helpful for me. Thanks! Maybe we can meet up once I come.
Cheers
Lyndsey

Rajarshi said...

Succint,
That's the word that came to my mind after going thru your blog, never has Kolkata,(calcutta was so much better) seemed more alive to me in these past few years, and I yearned to return there after 10 years.
Made for lovely reading,, and I shall be back.

Anonymous said...

And when an american manager has an indian colleague, the american will make sure that he makes the indian to work four times more than that of the fellow american.

When the cop sees us, he tries to guess ( in my case he asked us, this was just after the sep 2001 fiasco) if we are from the middle east or india before he renders service even in an emergency.

The black cop will want to take side with an american and try to ticket us even when we are not at fault because he knows we have a temporary visa ( F1 or H1) and may hesitate to sue.

The american cops are racial to the core.

Even in restaurant they try to discriminate in service until we stand and demand good service.
so much for americans ( all are not good, but we have extremely good american friends who encourage us to get back at those who abuse and discriminate. All are not bad. We are all people, with biases, stereotypes and prejudices.

Enjoy your stay in Cal.As I enjoy my stay here in the US. Every individual has a lot to give to make this place a better place. My indian parents taught me to have self respect and gandhi taught us non violence. I travel much and realized that the world have so much to give and only then this place is a happier place. For those who bicker will continue to bicker and those who make happy surroundings will always find new ones.

good luck

Shia Jones Mehta
an indian in america.

kaushik said...

Are you still in Kolkata? hope that you are keeping well. I used to red your blog regularly and haven seen any recent posts. Also a while ago i wrote to you about the estate agent but you did not get back.

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