I have spent considerable time in my life filling out forms to either leave a country or enter a country or stay in a country. My experience is perhaps not too different from many immigrants who decide to settle in a different country and also travel to different parts of the world. My first endeavor started when I took on the Herculean task of getting an Indian passport in my twenties. And do believe me when I tell you that it is no mean feat. It involves filling forms, producing many, many documents, standing in line, police verification….and the list goes on. Next was getting a fiancée visa to come to United States. Fortunately, my fiancé pushed the papers on that one so I only had to sign some papers and send him some documents. Once I came here, we got married within 10 days and thus began my sojourn to change my status to become a Resident Alien in this country. After several form filling and back and forth to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, I got my green card or Resident Alien status. Although I am not an Englishman in New York, I sang along with Sting, “I’m an alien, a legal alien…” an Indian woman in Bawlmore!
After a year of getting my green card, Sean got transferred to India. We picked ourselves up and transplanted in New Delhi. I was beyond thrilled of course except when we had to come in to US twice a year. You see, if one has a green card in this country, they are required to live here for certain number of days and we were not fulfilling that requirement. The customs officers asked us many questions at the port of entry, nodded their heads, frowned, were nasty to me often and we were completely dependent on the clemency of the officer in question. I started having butterflies in my stomach as I stood in line to enter the country. After a harrowing experience each time, the officer stamped my passport and I breathed.
After 12 years of our marriage, I finally decided to seek citizenship of United States. Travel was difficult with Indian passport. Getting a citizenship involved form filling and trips to USCIS again. However, it was done. I got my US passport and right away I filed papers to obtain a PIO card to enter India without a visa. PIO card stands for People of Indian Origin. It was similar to a green card in US, no voting rights but the card ensured hassle free entry to my country of birth where my loved ones live. After a few years, Indian government decided to discontinue with PIO card and I had to convert my card to OCI one. OCI stands for Overseas Citizen of India which gives the card holders the same rights as PIO card holders. The whole point of writing all is this to show that I ensured that my entry to India was never delayed or hampered. I filled forms, I planned ahead. I was in control for the most part.
I used to worry about the 4 to 6 weeks that would take to renew my passport when the time came. I worried that if something happened to my parents in those 4 to 6 weeks I would not have any means to get to them. Now that worry seems so trivial. I worried about 4 – 6 weeks? I never thought a day would come when I would not be able to go to India for over a year. At the beginning of this nightmare, I was distraught and lived in agony. Then slowly I started realizing that the whole situation is not in my control. Pandemic taught me a valuable lesson to let go of things that I can not control. It was a hard lesson for someone like me, who likes to be in control but I did learn to let go.
I am a planner. I am planning to renew my passport and get my papers ready to go whenever I am able. But I am slowly learning to control my anxiety by chanting, “Let go of things beyond your control. Keep positive thoughts in your head. Let the negative go.”
There are nights when I still lie awake with disturbing thoughts. But then I count waves in my mind, breathe deeply and remind myself to let go. Easier said than done, but I try.