Dear Mr. Modi,
As an attractive Indian youth who 100 per cent believes in the classic Sanskrit saying “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”—Translation: The Whole World Is One Family Except Greenpeace—I am glad you have decided to make it easier for tourists from many nations to visit India. The new Indian e-tourist visa will be a boon for residents of countries such as Niue Island (population 1,611) and Tuvalu (will not exist in 100 years due to rising sea levels).
This is a commendable piece of reform. Nothing is more daunting to the foreign visitor than a trip to the local Indian embassy, where they often have to deal with:
1. Ambiguous regulations: “Please attach a copy of marriage certificate OR driving license OR any children below the age of 5. (Do not staple.)”
2. Overburdened staff: “Sir, please bring latest passport photo and apply again.” “What nonsense, I took this photo last week only.” “Sir, in this photo you are standing in front of the Berlin Wall.”
3. And outdated tourism posters: “Book Your India Tickets Now And Win A Betamax VCR!”
Sir, I look forward to seeing many thousands of tourists obtaining visas through this new route, visiting our country, partaking of its many delightful destinations, and bringing us many millions of dollars worth of valuable foreign exchange.
However, sir, I would like to humbly make one suggestion that will make this reform more fair: let us make this e-tourist visa system more reciprocal. I am not saying that we should treat visa applicants from other countries in the exact same way that they treat visa applicants from India.
But at least we should make small adjustments to the visa process so that foreign countries realise that we are treating them with some amount of reciprocity. Based on my personal experience in applying for various visas and travelling to various countries, I would like to make the following suggestions:
USA: When visitors arrive at an Indian airport, immediately ask them to furnish the passport officer with passport photos that are no more than one hour old. Provide photo booths in the airport where visitors can take pictures at a nominal fee of ₹15,000 per photograph. When they have submitted seven copies of the photograph, allow them into the country after confiscating their footwear.
Switzerland: Welcome them warmly at the airport and ask them how long they are going to be in India. Warmly issue them a visa that is valid for half that duration.
Norway: Welcome them with the utmost Indian hospitality and let them enter the country without any hassle whatsoever. Then, as they are leaving the airport, politely take most of their money from them and ask them to eat at McDonald’s for the duration of the journey.
Italy: Spare no expense in giving them a warm welcome. Ask them about their family. Tell them about your family. Then ask them about their children. Then tell them about your children. Don’t worry if the line is getting longer. Then ask them about the weather in Italy. Then tell them about the weather in our country. Then give them a generous visa. Before they leave, ask them which hotel they are staying in. Give them the wrong directions.
Turkey: Tell them that this is not the line for e-tourist visa, go to window number 7. At window number 7, tell them that there is a separate queue for Turkish tourists at window number 11. Ensure that there is no window number 11 at the airport. After two hours, walk up to them and ask them why they are so upset. Oh, so sorry. Please come and take your visas immediately from window number 1. Window number 1 is closed for lunch. Be extremely polite and friendly throughout this ordeal.
France: Before they arrive in India, invent a new language similar to Dothraki that can only be spoken by that one passport officer. Once the French tourists arrive, speak to them only in that language.
Australia: Warmly welcome them at the foot of the stairs outside the aeroplane. Arrange for local youth to present each tourist with a garland of fresh flowers. Once they enter the airport confiscate the flowers, admonish them severely for trying to import flora and fauna into our country which is not at all allowed under any circumstances. Let them into the country after a casual, 12-hour interview.
United Kingdom: Coldly welcome them at the counter and ask them for salary slips of all odd months in every even year for the last Avogadro number of years. When this is presented ask them for Arbitrary Commonwealth Surcharge of ₹3,76,541 per person, accepted only in Japanese Yen coins, no change given. Then tell them everything is approved and ask them to proceed towards Kohinoor Waiting Hall where, after 2-3 hours of waiting, they will be deported back to the UK due to unspecified reasons. If they wish to contest this decision, please ask them to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Mr. Modi, I hope you will give serious thought to these inputs. Jai Hind.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way or form represent the views of National Geographic Traveller India.