Re: [rishiculture] A week of tension ends with us back home safe
- I've always thought it was a deeply ingrained bureaucratic tradition in most countries to send their most socially dysfunctional citizens to the borders to welcome incoming arrivals.
From: Yogacharya Dr.Ananda Bhavanani <yognat2001@...>
To: rishiculture <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Fri, Apr 29, 2011 3:05 am
Subject: [rishiculture] A week of tension ends with us back home safe
With the blessings of our beloved Swamiji and Ammaji and the loving and strong support of Yogacharini Kalavathi, and the prayers from so many of our Gitananda Yoga family, Devasena and I finally got back home today after a week long hectic battle of nerves. It had been indeed a period of intense testing draining us of our physical, mental, emotional and financial resources.It all started with us flying from Bristol to Milan (Bergamo) on 23rd April with Priyananda and Sangeeta ready to meet us there and take us to our “European home”, the Gitananda Ashram in Altare near Savona. We were to have nearly 10 days of intense Yoga and cultural activities with religious ceremonies at the Sri Lalitha Tripurasundari temple with dozens of my dearest Gitananda family members from all over Europe assembling for Satsangha.“Man proposes but God disposes” is an old saying but this became so true that day as we found out at Italian border control. The moment we landed, we were refused entry as our visas had only a SINGLE entry stamp and we had used it by coming to Milan for a few days from 6th to 10th April before going to the UK!!! A simple bureaucratic error at the Italian consulate in Mumbai coupled with naivety in not checking it, and the laid back attitude of Souvenir Travels in not pointing it out to me, had led to this dire situation of deportation back to the UK!Tensions ran high as I managed to phone Sangeeta to talk to the officer and Priyananda managed to get right up to the immigration counter. Despite our fervent pleas that we had applied for a multiple entry visas we were sent back to the UK on the VER SAME FLIGHT though we had all the invitation letters and our visas were other wise valid till May 4th. Felt like criminals being deported as we made the return trip that had been a journey to from “NOW HERE” to “NO WHERE” in a matter of only 2 hours.If this was a test of the preparedness of the Gitananda family, we all passed it with flying colours. Priyananda and Sangeeta had got in touch with Hamsananda and by the time we landed at Bristol, Ammaji had been informed and Kalavathi was racing to the rescue. Luckily Kalavathi had been contacted and she was there to meet us at Bristol and take us home after we had cleared the UK immigration where we had sympathetic officers who were as surprised as us at what had happened! “Do the Italians want to make more money by issuing only single entry visas?” asked one of them incredulously.The Gitananda Ashram went on the fast track and had sent off letters and requests for a corrected visa to London and Mumbai and also contacted the Indian embassy. Innumerable long distance phone calls, faxes and emails were made from Italy, UK and India criss crossing the electronic world tirelessly. Kalavathi and her talented and loving husband Lloyd, made us feel comfortable in their home once again despite the disruption of all their plans over the Easter weekend and the following week. The loving support given by the both of them and their lovely children touches a place that is very deep within our heart. We started to see the humour in the situation and even started making a list of 108 reasons why this happened. Chitra, Swetha and Bharat came over and organised a lovely Indian meal with Jeremy an Christine joining in to make us feel comfortable and it was such a surprise for Jeremy when we opened the door at Kalavathi’s home, for he hadn’t heard that we were back again!Tuesday, the first working day after the holidays saw us rushing to Cardiff to meet the Italian embassy only to find out that they didn’t work on Tuesdays! Phones calls to Mumbai got us the classic response, “They can go back to India and apply for a new visa if they want!” The London embassy declined us an appointment and instead put us in touch with the visa office telling us to apply there. After many emails with the visa office, we finally got permission to apply for a new visa at the VFS in London.We were all reenergised with great hope and expectation of a final and happy ending at Italy and with renewed vigour the Gitananda Ashram got all the new letters and documentation ready and sent it off to the consulate again. As the travel itinerary is most important they also purchased the tickets from London to Milan for Friday night spending more than 300 pounds. Shalini, Shanmugam and Velu worked overtime to get all the documentation done from Pondicherry and sent it to us by email.Finally the “D” day arrived and Wednesday morning Kalavathi, Devasena and I set off for London hoping for the best. Kalavathi had made arrangements for the travel tickets and also organised the night’s stay at the home of her sister Mel and her husband Scott who live close to London.And then, the nightmare at the VHS office! Right from the very word ‘Go’ the official handling our application was on the offensive. Kalavathi and Devasena got a taste of what I usually seem to evoke in women of power sitting behind desks! Fighting with our backs to the wall doesn’t convey what we were doing right from the start. Finally she snapped, “You never told us in your emails that you are in the UK on a tourist visa and hence we cannot accept your application”. Off she then stomped to talk to the official who had been mailing us and then 15 minutes later came back and said, “Italian Schengen visas can only be issued from the country of your residence and hence you have to go home”. We were totally stunned at the turn of events from HOPE to HOPELESSNESS and asked meekly, “Can we meet the consulate and try something?” “You can if you wish but there is no use, and remember”, she added for emphasis, “Watch out, we Italians have ATTITUDE”!!I know that there is a reason for everything and that all that happens, is only for the best. Yet, this was one of those moments where you do doubt your own commitment and values. Had I let down all my students who love and respect me? How could I have prevented this from happening? What are the lessons for us all? I know that I will be back in Europe at the earliest for I need to replace ‘positive memories’ in the place of the ‘negative memories’ predominating at present. This practical form of pratipaksha bhavanam is the only way I know that can enable me to set right my naïve mistake that has resulted in so many of my loved ones getting disappointed and hurt. It is our responsibility to care for those who love and respect us and I will never let my loved ones down.To relieve the tension we went for a walk along the streets of London passing St Paul’s Cathedral, crossing the Millennium Bridge and viewing from the distance the Tower Bridge and London Bridge on the way. As we set off on the boat, traversing the Thames back to the Victoria station, the amazing ‘superwoman’ Kalavathi set to work on organising our return tickets. Imagine trying at such a late moment to get our return tickets changed from Milan-Dubai-Chennai to London-Dubai-Chennai. Whereas my travel agent said he needed a full working day to do something like that, she did it in an hour! Yogaha karmasu koushalam, yogic skill in action indeed.A pleasant overnight stay with Mel and Scott gave us a chance to meet more of Kalavathi’s family, and then we were off to Heathrow to catch the flight back home. Sometimes small things seem kinder and when the lady at the Emirates desk said, “You have to only pay 250 pounds and not the 300 quoted yesterday”, I found myself thinking, “Swamiji, you do have a sense of humour” for I finally found a lady behind a desk giving me reason to say, “Thank you madam”.Yogacharya Dr.Ananda Balayogi BhavananiChairman : Yoganjali Natyalayam and ICYERHon General Secretary, Pondicherry Yogasana Association25, 2nd Cross,Iyyanar Nagar, Pondicherry, South India-605 013Tel: +91-413 - 2622902 / +91-413 -2241561Mobile: +91-9842311433Website: www.icyer.com