Nepali Times
Vis-?-vis life


I did not realise being considered a potential threat to the US national security and a possible illegal alien would be so thrilling. Having led a reasonably humdrum life so far-most of my family, friends and colleagues think of me as goody-two-shoes-this came as a surprising revelation. I no longer am a boring young man, not according to Uncle Sam. I am dangerous and I\'m telling the world.

Unlike the Buddha, who was initially unsure of his path to nirvana, I was absolutely confident of my (temporary) path to the US. Armed with an invitation letter from a Washington DC-based global financial agency, a support letter from my current employer (another global agency) plus confidence from visiting multiple countries, including a past visit to the US, I had surveyed other visa applicants at the US Embassy with some pity. I walked into that interview with a swagger I didn\'t know I possessed.

After a brief interview, "Mr Nepaliman," the white gentleman behind the glass window said politely and firmly, "I cannot issue you a visa". He explained that his government now had stringent visa requirements and that I had not adequately proven my "ties to Nepal". He advised me to apply after a month with full details of property owned, bank statements etc.

"Ties to Nepal"? That started a mini-angst. What defines my tied-ness to Nepal? What ties us to anything? My legal tie as citizen, as was my employment in a "legal" institution in Nepal, was clearly stated in that application, but both were obviously inadequate for the US government.

Material ownership (house, land, money) was major thread to this answer.Marriage was apparently another criterion of tied-ness according to one of my colleagues. I was clearly very, very un-tied-y.My colleague\'s pragmatic suggestions were "buy a house and marry someone with two kids immediately". Other explanations for being turned into a visa refusenik ranged from a global geo-politico-economic situation analysis to a critical observation of my personal self. "They just do it to make you reapply and get more money," one colleague said seriously. So that is how the US economy and the Iraq war are being funded.

One of my American friends emailed her government\'s attitude dismissively: "They view all brown skinned single men as a threat". That\'s it! That explains why my cousin got a visa, he is naturally lighter skinned than I, although he, too, is single. "Your name has a Muslim ring, and this is September so of course the US does not want any Muslims on its territory in September," another theorised.

"Well, it could be your recent trips to Malaysia and Sri Lanka-that must have looked suspicious to the US," was one more theory. Lesson: plan all your travels well in advance with always keeping in mind that you will need to get a US visa one day, ie avoid all other countries. "It was your suspicious slightly British accent-haven\'t you noticed that most villains in Hollywood movies have British accents?" went an interesting hypothesis. Lesson: sharpen your genuine Nepali accent.

My least liked hypothesis came from a much-respected colleague of mine, a conflict expert, who said, "Sometimes they don\'t give a visa just because they don\'t like the way a person looks". Visually challenged applicants will have to either use a veil or opt for plastic surgery. That fateful evening, charged with anti-American sentiment, I consoled myself by watching Bad Boys II at Jai Nepal Cinema first and followed it by Friends on TV, with hamburgers and Coke for dinner. As a sign of protest, I plan to boycott CNN, C-span and all American horror movies next.

Sameer Karki is a development worker currently planning to buy a house.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)