Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Crossing the line - 2

If you haven't read the first part, then please do read before reading this.... Continuing from where I left

The place where she had pointed me to park the car had a No Parking signboard. Now I dint know whether to obey her and park it there or try to search for another place. Another border security guy was just looking at us from the time we passed the checkpost. I looked at him, he nodded his approval for me parking there. I parked the car and the 3 of us (Rajendra, Raj Jain and myself) walked towards the building. There was a security guy at the door, who looked at the slip we were carrying and just said "Second Floor, Thank you"
There was an elevator with a door on both the sides, we took that to the second floor. As we got out in the 2nd floor, the scene I saw was something I thought I would not see in a country like US.

It was a pretty small room and had a few rows of chairs. It was filled with people of all races, castes and countries. Most of them trying to get a US Visa to get into USA. And a few of them like us, unfortunately caught. And probably a few illegal immigrants aswell. The room had a secure door leading to the main office. All the custom officers were in the main office, they would come out once a while, call a name and escort that person inside. There was no enquiry/help desk in the waiting room. So if you are stuck there, you will have no idea when your name will be called.

There were huge boards saying "Usage of cell phones is strictly prohibited". We dint know what had happened to the other 3, but we were sure that they would be caught too. We stood there for half an hour, waiting and just waiting. Finally I decided that I would give Bhargav(who had got down on the bridge) a call. There were security cameras around and I was unsure if someone would be monitoring those. So went to the restroom, saw that there were no cameras there and switched on the cell phone. (Had to camouflage the cell phone start up sound by flushing ). Bhargav's phone is switched off now!

We had to decide, if questioned should we tell that we were a group of 6 and 3 of them got down in no-man's land to take photos or should we tell that we were just 3 in the car. The first one would sound ridiculous and suspicious and the second option was untrue and risky. We toggled between both for a long time and finally decided to stick on to the truth. After all "Satyameva Jayate".

Now we had to let the other car guys know that we were stuck and I wanted to have my passport with me. So I decided to make another visit to the loo. I decided to call Bharat and ask him to get the passport. The last I heard from those guys was when they were in Niagara tourist centre.
I call up Bharat
Me: Hello, listen to me carefully and dont interrupt me
Bharat: Ok
Me: We are in deep trouble, we are held up in the US customs office. Get my passport and come here. Bharat: We dont know where it is
Me: Come to Day's Inn. This office is very close to that. And dont call me back till I call you.

I cut the call and just hope that he doesnt think that I am playing a prank. I get back and tell these guys about the conversation. We are getting impatient now, it has been more than 1 and a half hour and we are still clueless. People are continuously pouring in and many seem to be as helpless as us. I hide behind a row of people and start messaging Chaitra (who again was in the other car). She tells me that Bhargav had called and he is coming to Day's Inn too.

We were surprised but relieved that they let them go. But little did we know that only Bhargav was the only guy who was out. Their side of the story is interesting too. After they had seen enough of Canada and taken pics, they decide to walk back. Thats when they say the US customs checkpost, having the board asking them to hand over the passports. The US Customs Officer(UCO) there has asked them for their passports and they have tried to explain to him what all has happened. Mayur and Bhargav have their state ids with them, which the officer has outright rejected. And Kavitha's passport is in the car and the car was parked in the US customs office. The key of which is with me and I am held up inside the office....

The have no clue of where we were, actually they thought that we were outside waiting for them. It never struck to them that we might be caught too... This UCO was obliging in a way, he based on the state id of Mayur and Bhargav, pulled their I-94 records from the database and validated their Visas. But unfortunately he could not pull up on the information for Kavitha. Bhargav's cell was almost dead by now, so acting fast, they noted down all the numbers on a piece of paper.. The UCO asked Bhargav to go and get Kavitha's passport... Bhargav goes out and goes to a coin phone but he doesnt have quarters... So he starts asking people around for quarters. Finally he meets a fellow kannadiga who gives him the quarters... He tries to call me, but my phone is switched off.... He tries calling Akshay but it reaches a wrong number. He is now asking people for their cell phone, offering them $20 for the phone call.... Finally he was able to contact Akshay who explained to him that we were caught too... Bhargav told that he would come to Day's Inn and from there they will take it forward....

Back in the customs office, it was close to 2 n a half hours now. Finally a lady UCO came out and she looked patient enough to listen. We approached and I told her about the incident. She told she would have to see my passport and gave me the permission to make 1 phone call right in front of her and get the passport. I called up Bharat and he was given permission to enter the building to give my passport. I took the passport from him and gave him the car keys.

Kavitha and Mayur were waiting for more than an hour and there was no signs of Bhargav. The officer there was getting impatient too. After Bharat got the key, he went towards our car, but the security there did not allow him as it was not parked by him So he got back to Day's Inn without Kavitha's passport. Bhargav then took the key from Bharat, went to the Security checkpost and was escorted by a security officer till the car just to open the car and take the passport... Finally Kavitha got her passport and was allowed to get inside US!

Me, after giving the passport had to wait for half an hour more for my name to be called. I was summoned inside,
UCO: Hi, How come your name in the DL is different than the one in the passport.
Me: In my DL, my last name is indicated with initials, whereas in my passport it is expanded.
UCO: Oh ok, I get it. Thank you, you may leave now!
Saying this he returned back all the documents and put a stamp on the slip that was given to us. And I was just wondering is that it?

What a way to end 3 hours of misery.... Nevertheless it was a memorable experience.... Felt bad though for the guys in the other car, as they had to wait outside all the while.... Not knowing what was happening but just suffering outta boredom...

There were a lotta take aways from this experience....
1) Always carry your passport with you...
2) When in doubt ask someone and clarify instead of assuming and moving on....
3) carefully look for roadsigns :)
4) Never cross the border when you dont intend to :)
5) Dont jump down on no-man's land to take pics... :D

This is the signboard we missed - Canada Only :)

The beauty of Niagara was waiting for us, we had a wonderful time after that and also the 2 days in New York was great fun.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

LOC - 1

After a long time I return to my blog.... Thanks to my NY trip :)
Trips for me have always been exciting.. Especially when its a new place and an opportunity to meet old friends...
For the labor day long weekend, NY was our destination... We landed in NY on Friday night and started our drive to Niagara the same night... Since we were a group of 12, we had to take 2 cars..
Its a 7.5 - 8 hour drive from NY to Niagara and we managed to reach there by 9.30 - 10 in the morning. We were to visit Niagara that day and start back that night, so we had not booked a hotel there...
Our car reached there first, as we did not stop to have food anywhere... We thought we will have it near Niagara as there are plenty of Indian restaurants there. Once we reached Niagara we started searching for Indian restaurants on our GPS....

Our GPS mis-led us to a couple of Indian restaurants, in reality there were no restaurants there.
Finally, we saw an Indian restaurant on the right.. As I was on the left lane, I could not make a stop there at the intersection. We had 2 options - to take a left and take a U-turn and come back or go straight and take a U-turn and come back... I decided to go straight as most of the vehicles were entering that road, which we happened to believe was the way to Parking for Niagara Falls.
The vehicle movement on that road was really slow and there was bumper to bumper slow moving traffic. As we went a bit further, we entered a toll-gate, paid $3 to the attendant there..
Me: Is there anyway I can get back? I don't want to park my car here.
Attendant (Takes $3 I hand over): Go straight and take a U-turn.

Now, there is a huge line of cars behind us too and a huger line in front of us. As we inch forward, I get a call from Akshay (he was in the other car)
Akshay: Maga, where are you people?
Me: We are in the parking lot of Niagara. We need to get out, but looking at the traffic, it seems like its gonna take more than an hour. I suggest you people come here in the meanwhile.
Akshay: We are the Niagara tourist info centre. Once you people come out, give me a call.
Rajendra(who was sitting in our car, suddenly tells): I think we are going to Canada, I see a Canadian flag on the other side.
Me(joking about it over the phone): Maga it seems we are in Canada, I will call you soon.

I put the phone down and tell people that there is a US flag also there, so we cant be in Canada.
As the line of cars slowly move forward, each one begins to feel that yeah, we are indeed entering Canada. Now there is no way to get back as we cant take a reverse there. We need to go straight. A lady (seems like a traffic control volunteer) is walking past our car, we decide to ask her the way out.
Me: Is this road leading to Canada?
Lady(Has an "as if you didn't know expression on her face): Yes
Me: We entered here by mistake, is there any way we can get back?
Lady: Oh, go through the Canadian custom checkpost, tell them you entered by mistake. They will ask you to take a U-turn and get back. Dont, worry this happens many a time.

As we get close to the Canadian customs checkpost, we see written there "Please hand over your passport to the officer." This is when I realize that my passport is with Chaitra who is in the other car!!! Bhargav and Mayur have just got their state ids and their passports are back home in Minneapolis. And my only proof of identity is my Karnataka State Driving License!

We are next in line, we decide that I alone will speak and explain. I roll the window down and turn towards the Canadian Custom Officer (CCO)
Me: Hi, we entered here by mistake. We need to get back.
CCO: Please show me your passports.
Me: Uhmm, well actually my passport is in another car. They have stopped in Niagara tourism centre. These people have passports/State Ids. I have my Indian Driving license.
CCO: Hand them over to me together.
I hand it over and answer each question she asks. "Why are you here", "Where are you staying", "Where are you from" "How long have you been here" etc etc
Me(pleadingly): We had no intention of entering Canada, we came here by mistake. We need to get back.
CCO (Verifies all the documents and hands it over): Take a U-turn immediately and get back immediately.

I take the documents, pass it back and with a sigh of relief, satisfaction and pride take the U-turn back. We managed to step into Canada we all think. A few even thinking of getting down, just to see how the ground in Canada feels like. As we head back on the same bridge. We are able to see Niagara Falls on the right side. Seeing this Kavitha immediately starts jumping, telling she wants to get down and take a pic there. I totally refuse as there is bumper to bumper traffic and there is no way I can stop the car there. But she refuses to listen and since the car was moving so slowly, she along with Bhargav and Mayur get down there. I cant stop the car there and these people start running in the opposite direction taking photos.

We inch forward and we see a checkpost again there, "US Customs Checkpost" it reads. And written below it in bold is "Please hand over your passport here". Now we are frantically trying to call Mayur/Bhargav/Kavitha. Kavitha and Mayur have left their cell phones in the car itself and Bhargav's cell phone is low on battery. I try to take my Indian DL out, which is my only source of identity. But it seems like, when the Canadian officer handed it over, I had passed it back to Kavitha, who has taken it and has got down. I finally manage to reach Bhargav, but Kavitha there tells that she left the DL in the car itself. We are all now frantically searching for my DL but in vain.

Its finally our chance near the counter and I again lower the window and talk to the US Customs Officer (UCO)
UCO: Hi, please give me your passports.
Me: Hello, we just entered by mistake. We had no intention of entering Canada. We were asked to take a U-turn back.
UCO: Sir, whatever it might be I want to see your passport.
Me: Well, my passport is in another car, that car is closeby. I can call them up and get it.
UCO: You cant call them as the use of cellphone is prohibited here. Can I see the passport of the other 2 people with you. And since you are driving the car, can I see your DL
Me: Yeah, it is somewhere here.
I again start searching and finally see my DL lying inside Kavitha's purse. Relieved, I hand it over. Here is my DL.
She sees "Karnataka State Driving License", makes a weird face...
UCO: You will have to meet the Officer in the Customs office, I cant help you.
Me: But we showed the same to the Canadian authorities, they dint....
UCO (cutting me short): I dont care what the Canadian authorities do. I am abiding by the US government. I cant let you inside US without confirming your status. So, take this slip, park your car there and go to the 2nd floor of that building. Your documents will reach there. You can meet the Immigration officer when your name is called..

To be continued....

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just for you!!!!

I sat in the flight, feeling bad for having chided her and making her cry

Though she had traveled half a thousand mile just to say goodbye

I could not imagine how I could manage without having her near,

A couple of days was OK, but how could I for one whole year?

On a chill Saturday night, I got down in an alien land,

With a heavy heart and two big suitcases in hand.

Suddenly I felt the warmth amidst persisting snow showers

My lady love had sent me a bunch of wonderful flowers.

She really knows how to cheer me up, how to spring up a surprise,

I feel so special because of her, feel she is my coveted prize.

The bouquet gave me a reassurance, told me that she is here

Relieved I was and felt better, knew that now I had nothing to fear.

Made sure I wore the best dress and had goodies in my baggage,

She shopped for me, got me gifts and packed every inch of my luggage.

I don’t know how to thank her for everything, how to let her know what I feel

Sometimes I fail to do so but I realize my mistake before the clock turns a wheel

Her gifts are precious, the artistic diary and the cute mouse pad,

She is so sweet & thoughtful, indeed the best partner I could have ever had

She wakes up early in the morning and stays back late in the night

Just to talk to me she does all this and I feel shameful that I sometimes fight.

Hope she liked what I gave and it brought to her face that radiant smile,

I hope you like this too Di, you know I am no poet, this is just a trial.

I wanna always keep you happy and that’s what in God I shall pray

This is an earnest effort from me & my way of saying HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Dream Date - Cornered there!!

Date: Sometime in July 2003

"I am feeling miserable. My lip is cut. I cant go out anywhere." she complains.
"Lol, what does that have to do with you going out?" he asks.
"I will get concious, people will be staring at that only" she complains further.
"You had to treat me icecream, remember? Lets meet today." (He is hopeful)
"No ways..... I am not coming out anywhere today" (But she wants to meet him (Thats what i think atleast))
"We are meeting and its final, please dont be so fussy" he finally convinces her. (He somehow could/can most of the time)

Place: Corner House, Jayanagar 4th block (He closed soon after :P)

The cut isnt as bad as she thinks. Infact it can go well as a fashion statement ;). He orders a HCF (small cup) and she gets a glass of water for herself. He eats it shamelessly and she pays. They leave the place... The cut is looking better.

He suddenly feels guilty (realizes that she dint have anything there and decency said he had to pay). He offers her a fruit juice (so romantic). Forces one upon her until they bump into a weird cousin.......

To be Contd.....

PS: Orkut has a "my idea of a perfect first date"... ROTFL
PS2: Just FYI.... He was no way responsible for the cut on the lip....

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pehala Nasha - An important Announcement plz!!!

Rewind------A semi-hot day in the month of May 2003, in classroom# 303. I was probably having a look at the dance team practising. 3 - 4 girls walked in to register themselves as volunteers and as participants for a few events. There was one girl there who was irritated with me, and thought that i was a lazy bum.... (She still thinks the same)

Forward >>>>> A very hot day again during the month of the May 2003, singing auditions had taken place and she dint manage to get through, so dint her friend. Her friend was weeping and she was laughing, I dint know whether I had to laugh at her friend or laugh with her. She was about to snatch my choco stick.... I knew she was crazy (So was I)

FF X 2>> The fest day, an announcement which was never made, made me want to know her better... She sounded so natural, unique, & sweet (Shes no longer sweet shes ultra sweet)

Play > A bike ride amidst unknown BDA layouts and the 1st phone call that night was just the start of a wonderful story..... (Her young cousin was shouting on top of his voice, but i could still hear the warmth in her voice)

Call time : 9:15PM
Call duration : 786 secs

Pause - More to come

Friday, June 03, 2005

Of mainframes, magazines and munjis :)

Well a hectic week it was..... Started off with a tough program and ended with one.... But hey i was on leave for a day n a half :)..... The alumni meet last week around was good... But what after that??? Need to do something about it.... A fat pay check this time.... but mind you only this time...
Well these are only facts.... A question has been lingering in my mind for quite some time... I have always thought that I have got more than what I deserve be it marks in Engg, friends, respect, popularity or whatever.... I really dunno y.... I was really surprised when I was chosen the Alumni President.... Not that i am not happy carrying out the responsibilities, I just wanna know how come me???
I dont think I am anyway even close to brilliant or extra-ordinary, I am not a great orator, nor am I charismatic... I am very much ordinary and normal.... Puzzles me.......
The magazine has come out very well, Bhatta has done a great job with the designs... N for once I like my designs as well.... The day's leave I took for auditing the changes is very much worth it....
My appraisal due sometime this week.... I just hope that I am not required to face the appraiser for a review of the appraisal....
I wanna improve my Kannada reading/writing skills.....

(The paragraphs have no connection with one another.... I just wrote what all came to my mind :P)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Its getting hot in here!!!!

Hey all... its god damn hot outside... thank the person who invented AC... uffff.... work getting hectic.... but wasnt i complaining that i have no work just a week back???? strange me....
I wanna buy a digi cam soon n a dvd writer n a tv tuner card n a broadband connection n what not.... the list is endless.... but the need is minimal :P.....
Hosur road suckzzzz..... traffic jams every day.... when will the situation improve :(.....
Have a long weekend coming..... just a day n a half left.... yeahhh.....
Have Fun!!!!!