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Background Research

Started: 2009-11-23 20:14:06

Submitted: 2009-11-23 21:07:16

Visibility: World-readable

This morning, FedEx delivered my passport with a six-month, multiple-entry Indian tourist visa glued inside. Despite requiring a lengthy written application, a pair of passport photos, a non-trivial visa fee, and mailing my passport to San Francisco, the whole process went fairly well. I could track the intimate details of my passport's movement, first via FedEx, then as it went to the Indian consulate, and back via FedEx. I mailed my passport Friday morning, 13 November, and got it back ten days later. (Others in my family fared less well with their visas. Willy needed a visa that would let him stick around for nearly a year and teach, which required a letter of reference and other complicated things that took a while to arrange properly. My mother applied for her visa just as a third-party company got the exclusive contract to process visas, and had to mail and remail various documents before finally getting the visa. India's border control officers did in fact let my parents into the country last week; they're visiting Willy for Thanksgiving.)

One question on the visa application perplexed me: "Object of Journey", in 80 characters or less. (That's less than a tweet.) The problem was not articulating why I want to visit India, but trying to squeeze it into 80 characters, when 80 words would be limiting and 80 paragraphs adequate. I contemplated the question carefully before finally writing:

To visit an ancient and thriving civilization. To discover India's history.

(I recall Willy complaining about this as well, but I can't find any actual documentary evidence.)

My Indian research has led me to study the online version of Trains at a Glance (the Indian Railways timetable) in an attempt to figure out how I might get around the north-eastern portion of the country. I'm working on the audio book of Buddha; Kiesa was not impressed when she learned that Siddhartha abandoned his newborn to seek enlightenment. Not all of my research has been fruitful; I gave up on the audio book of Planet India a third of the way through when it bogged down in personal anecdotes circa 2007 and seemed more interested in India taking its place in the world than dealing with its internal problems. (It doesn't help that the world has changed in the intervening two years. And that the narrator didn't know that the trailing "e" in Fed Chairman Bernanke isn't silent.)