Dear Nepal Embassy,
I am, by most counts, a rational human being; even calculating, some might say. Sometimes I harbor aspirations- as many of us do – of going back to Nepal and utilizing my skillsets for something more impactful. After all, I have been in the US for nine years now, and have gotten three degrees in the meantime – all from top-notch institutions. And somewhat contrary to my genetic makeup, I carry these dreams because in a little optimistic corner of my perpetually cynical heart, I imagine that the Nepal I left behind has changed – even if it’s a tiny bit – for the better. But then, you come in and quickly quell the brewing storm of irrational patriotism. So, thank you.
You might not remember me. After all, in the grand scheme of things, I am merely a speck. And you, while not spectacular yourself, are at least more than that. So, I remember our interactions all right, all 57 of them. And while 53 of these interactions were you refusing to acknowledge my existence, they were still invaluable life lessons to me. So, let me begin by when I first laid eyes on you.
You were everything I imagined – chaotic, dirty, and severely mismanaged. But then, I wasn’t looking for anything serious either. All I wanted was to submit my passport for MRP renewal; a short fling – as the kids call it these days. Dare I say, much to my own embarrassment today, I even thought for a time that a seamless transition to 21st century compliant passports was my right as a Nepali. But walking in to the embassy to find an empty office with a dozen people waiting and cheap stickers of “Buddha was born in Nepal” plastered on desks quickly dispelled such thoughts. How young and foolish I was! This was all but a miniature reflection of Nepal – perhaps, just like it was meant to be.
Now don’t get me wrong, the world did a great job of preparing me for our impending courtship. You were always the crazy one. Your reputation was built on horror stories of passports being lost, applications being rejected because of unclear directions, improper paper sizes (for f**k’s sake – try venturing out to DuPont Circle sometimes and see if you can find A3-sized paper), petty photographic concerns and the like. But I know crazy like no one knows crazy. So, I planned accordingly. I took a day off work and drove 300 miles to come see you so I could deliver my passport in person. That’s how much I wanted this to work!
There were defeated faces there. From what I gathered through the grapevine, some people had been frequenting your premises for a month, and you were still playing hard to get. Such is the nature of these things. And although you committed a grievous faux pas by announcing (multiple times) at the top of your voice that a female friend of mine looked like she wasn’t wearing anything in her passport picture because it only showed her head and her neck, I let that one slide. Maybe you were just nervous on our first date. Her blushes notwithstanding, we had fairly smooth sailing, and I was on my merry way before I knew it.
Oh, did I tell you that I’d tried calling you 17 times before I came to see you just to make sure that you were still open and accepting applications for MRPs? Normally, I am not the kind to be paranoid, but you know that earthquake (not sure if you remember it) had just hit. And I was worried, for us. But you did not respond to any of my calls. I made up excuses for you thinking maybe you were overloaded with requests from people calling you to make donations for the victims. I promptly let your dismissal of my 17 missed calls and a few voicemails slide. But I digress. Here I was, happy, that you had defied stereotypes. I thought maybe I was unfairly judgmental, and that I shouldn’t let other people’s biases influence my own decision making. While this brutal introspection was going on, I waited to hear back from you. Like an addict on withdrawal, I compulsively checked the one link you had provided me with to check on the status of my passport; this was, after all, the sole indicator of the status of our relationship. Maybe our status was complicated after all.
So, you can imagine my relief when I learnt that my passport had been dispatched from Nepal with no issues in June itself. Oh, while we are speaking of Nepal – during our first date, as I was waiting in line with other people (we’ll refer to them as defeated faces for now), someone just walked in saying he knew someone from someone’s village in Nepal. You can imagine my disgust when he was allowed to skip the line and received royalty treatment. But then, some people are lucky that way.
All this brings me back to the present. It has been 156 days, or more precisely 3744 hours since we first met. I have spent 42.74% of 2015 in waiting. No signs of my passport. I did what any logical, self-respecting human being would do in this situation. I called you, a few times, and then some. 39 calls, but who is counting. Only two of these calls were picked up, but not when I dialled the extension for MRP. Both instances were when my fingers slipped, out of apprehension, and dialled a 2 instead of a 1. I had mistakenly reached the Visa section where the first time you hung up on me before I poured my heart out. The second time was more brutal. You left me hanging after hearing my story. I sat there, waiting for ten minutes, in complete disbelief. You asked me to wait for one minute, and I granted you ten times more. I could hear voices in the background, and yet you pretended you were not there; I was not there. Perhaps, this is karma for all the times I have made up excuses for not responding to my friends’ calls. But surely, even God can’t be that heartless. It was during the second call that you told me my passport hadn’t arrived because I needed to send my old passport back so you could “void” it. Although I found the logic incomprehensible (and, trust me, I know logic), I politely asked what the procedure was for sending back my passport. You asked me to hold for a moment. And then you left me hanging.
I have travelled the world; seen a thing or two. But at the end of the day, you show me what my true stature is. So, thank you. Maybe I wasn’t good enough for you to begin with. But in case you decide to change your mind about me in the future, I will still be waiting, for my passport, which I had unfairly assumed was my right.
With nothing but love and the warmest of regards,
Suman Giri, Ph.D.
Editor’s note: The author’s calculations regarding the duration of his liaison with the Nepal Embassy are valid as of October 15, 2015.