I was eagerly awaiting my second chance at an India sojourn to uplift and recharge my spirits for another year in the hustle and bustle of New York City. On the maiden voyage in 2007, circumstances were such that I could not be fully present. I was too new to my path, too attached to material comforts, entrusted to a motley crew of travelers with disparate interests, signed up for a whirlwind of eight remote cities in 21 days, on the verge of a life’s decision to become a monk that scared the daylights out of me, and sick most of the duration…
I’d been dying for that second chance…
My spiritual roots resided in that country and I felt called to claim their legacy this year. Now there was so much to do there – from the first time with my guru on retreat at holy places, to my planned personal pilgrimages, to the wedding of my dear partner in crime, Mr. Rasanath, this all felt quite epic after seven years away from the motherland.
Tuesday night, we were supposed to be in Rhode Island with dear friends, but Rasanath was not well, so we stayed the course in New York leading up to my departure in eight days. I walked out the door after a full day cooped up in our office on my emails. I should probably get at least a breath of fresh air, I thought…
I was embarrassingly behind on my meditation practice and going a little stir-crazy. I thought: I’ll dress warmly and take a walk to Bryant Park to chant my mantras until the cap of the night. I stepped out of the room for the first time that day, locked the door, and placed the key back in my bag. As I did so, I brushed against my passport, which was reserved for the same compartment.
How nice, said my mind, I have my passport on me.
That means I know where my passport is. That’s good.
I’ll be needing a passport soon.
Hmm… Will I be needing anything else passport-like soon?
Let me see…
Visas go in passports.
I don’t need a…wait a minute…
DO I NEED A VISA TO GO TO INDIA?!
I was crossing 53rd St. just in front of the apartment on my way to 6th ave., when I promptly pushed the “Rasanath” button on my speed-dial.
Do I need a visa to go to India?!
Oh my god!!
“Get on the internet and get on the phone right now…”
I hung up and re-crossed 53rd.
I researched emergency visas and found startlingly that I don’t qualify. My situation of forgetting I needed a visa apparently did not constitute an emergency. I must say, that really depends on your vantage point, O Visa People! It was certainly an emergency for me!
I called several places, waited on hold for several hours, ran through several websites, and ultimately came to find out that the “expedited” and “rushed” visas are available within the short span of three weeks, just one week and six days shy of the need of the hour! Good Lord, why is no one in as much of a rush to expedite this process as I am?
Yes, I was a little self-absorbed, but I really could not figure this out for the life of me. I had my list of things to pack and was well on my way to completion but that was starting to feel pretty useless now.
From 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. I wrestled with my inner demons and the outer voice recordings of visa processing companies. I had but one hope left. Cox and Kings. I was ready to pray to them as my savior, but kept my prayers directed above.
An online application was available and as I began to fill it out, I realized I needed to list addresses in India that I didn’t have. I reached out to Rasanath but couldn’t get him. I tried other options.
On the edge of my seat and unable to proceed, finally, Rasanath called back. I got an address of his family’s home in Mumbai to list. Then as I kept trying to submit my application, I encountered error upon error. Several times I had to start the application again from scratch, which took about 15 minutes each time. Nothing would work. I was pulling my hairs out about a trip that was supposed to be devoted to calm surrender… T’was humbling, to say the least!
My mind was swimming with thoughts at a higher velocity than I could manage. My birth name, which I listed on the application, is Ariel. I used to go by “Ari”, after being traumatized by the movie, The Little Mermaid. That Disney horror came out at exactly the wrong time: Just when I was entering into kindergarten. My life got better after “Ari”, but my parents always found it funny that in Israel they received comments of how bold and even audacious a name they’d chosen for me.
Ariel means Lion of God.
I was thinking about the lion incarnation of God worshiped in India – my unbeknownst namesake – called Narasimha, and I put out a specially pleading prayer.
Narasimha is supposed to protect the devotees in grave danger, and though I technically could have paid a premium to postpone my flight, even more than the money, the thought of missing part of a retreat with my guru made me feel like I was in some grave danger.
Just as I was thinking like this, suddenly the application went through! I was speechless. It was as if time stood still.
At 11:30 at night, being the only one in emergency mode standing for my case over the course of what felt like a lifetime, the application was spontaneously accepted! But to get a visa in my hands before my flight in eight days was another matter.
Cox and Kings refused to answer the phone and nothing on the website assured me it could be done in time. It was a shot in the dark.