The Meaning of Family

Luxury Restaurant Tableware

“Slow day today?” I asked the attendant who had just refilled my glass of water.

“So far, but it will get busy very soon,” he replied.

I was sitting in an Indian restaurant, in a nondescript strip mall. The restaurant was tastefully decorated with photographs and fabrics, a cut above the standard Indian images of the Taj Mahal. There was just one more table occupied by another guest, from the more than a dozen tables in the restaurant.

“The food is really good,” I complimented him.

“Thank you,” he replied, “That is really meaningful to hear. This is my restaurant and I’m proud of it.”

“How long has it been open?” I asked

“Just six months,” he replied, “And I am learning something everyday.”

“Your first restaurant…?” My question hung in the air.

“Yes,” he responded, “I graduated six months ago with a BS, but rather than a job, I always wanted to start a restaurant. When I told my parents, they supported me and provided the financing for this restaurant. My parents are partners with me in this restaurant.”

“Wow, that is great!” I exclaimed, “It must be wonderful to have such supportive parents!”

“You don’t know the least of it,” he said. “Earlier this afternoon, my Dad called to check and see how things were going, and I told him that my two attendants had called in sick. Without saying anything else, my Dad and Mom came over. That’s my Dad at the filling water for the other guest. That’s my Mom, cleaning the tables over there.” He gestured to the older Indian gentleman and lady that were absorbed in their work in another part of the restaurant. I had noticed them earlier, but had not paid them any special attention.

“Well, enjoy your food,” he said, and walked away to greet another couple that had just entered the restaurant.

I sat there, ate my food, and thought about families. Parents buying into their child’s dream, financially. Pitching in to help without making a fuss, yet doing so from the background, not trying to steal the limelight, nor talk up their son. Demonstrating by deed, more meaningful than any words, what support, love, trust, and belief, truly mean. Families can be so powerful in shaping our world.


Frustration And Success

This is the story of the visa applications for India, for my parents through Cox and Kings Global Services (CKGS), San Francisco.

My parents recently became US Citizens, and having been in the US for almost a year, wanted to go back to India. However, a US Citizen requires a tourist visa to visit India. Since my parents were previously citizens of India, and India does not allow dual citizenship, they also had to renounce their Indian citizenship. The Indian Embassy and Consulates in the US (including San Francisco) do not allow direct access to visa applicants – all visa and other applications are handled through an outsourcing company, CKGS.

The CKGS website is poorly designed and did not address my question – How do I apply simultaneously for Renunciation of Indian citizenship and a Tourist Visa? I called the phone number several times, only to alternate between a busy signal, or a 15 minute wait time that required me to keep pressing a button on my phone keyboard, to continue to be connected. Once I reached a person, and explained my situation, I was told that the website “widget” would allow me to do that. Also, that I could send in the both the Renunciation application and Visa application in a single envelope.

I couldn’t figure out the CKGS widget. I also couldn’t find how to send both Renunciation and Visa applications in a single envelope. Filling out the Visa application was very complex – it required a handoff from the CKGS site to the Indian Embassy site, and then back again to the CKGS site. It took me 2 days to assemble the full paperwork. I also couldn’t get a timely appointment for a personal visit to submit the application at CKGS, so I submitted four separate applications via courier for my parents – 2 applications for Renunciation, and 2 applications for Visas.

The CKGS tracking system showed receipt of the Visa applications, but for Renunciation indicated that the Indian Passports were missing. That stumped me, since I had sent the passports in the courier envelopes. So I made my first trip to the CKGS office in San Francisco to see if I could sort this out.

I met with Jennifer at CKGS reception. Jennifer patiently heard my situation and then went into the back office to find out what had happened to the passports. After a couple of clarifications, she finally located the passports. CKGS staff had opened the Visa applications and seen the reference to the Renunciation applications, but did not see the Indian passports (for Renunciation) in the Visa application. So they marked the Renunciation applications as missing documents. Jennifer found the Fedex envelopes for Renunciation with the missing passports, so the applications could proceed. I requested Jennifer to confirm that all the documents were in order for Renunciation – in case something was missing, I could provide it right then, since I was already in their office.

Jennifer came back after an hour and told me that all four applications had been checked and were complete – there was nothing more for me to do. So I left the CKGS office. Later that evening, I again checked the CKGS tracking system. This time the CKGS tracking system said that I was missing a document. I needed to provide a notarized letter stating that my parents were staying at my address in the USA – one letter per application.

I drafted the letter, and then got all four copies notarized over the weekend. Then I made a second trip to the CKGS office in San Francisco. This time I met Gregory at the front desk. I explained the situation to Gregory, who took the letters and added them to the applications. I asked Gregory if my application was now complete and would be forwarded to the Indian Consulate for processing. He replied that they would leave for the Indian consulate later that day.

Two days later, the CKGS website indicated that they were still awaiting the notarized letter to complete the applications. I made a third trip to CKGS. Fortunately, I met Gregory again, who recognized me from my last visit. I asked him what had happened to the applications – why were they still showing missing documents. Gregory went back and checked. Apparently the applications were complete, but were sitting in the inbox for processing by CKGS staff. Gregory said that he pulled out the applications and specifically requested the staff member to process the application. He assured me that the applications would leave the CKGS office that day.

The next day, the application status had been updated as complete and on the way to the Indian Consulate. The turn around time to get the visas at the Indian Consulate was just one day. One day more for receipt and processing by CKGS, then the weekend, and finally one more day for delivery by Fedex.

Total time to get visas for India – 2 1/2 weeks. Total trips to CKGS, San Francisco – Three.

My recommendations for others who are in a similar situation:

  1. Personally visit the CKGS office via an appointment to hand in your visa application. This will ensure a complete application, or at least let you know what is missing, and allow you to provide those documents.
  2. Prepare to visit the CKGS office in San Francisco, if you send in your application by courier. Calling the help numbers on the CKGS website is useless, since the call center is in India and they have no knowledge of the specific situation at an office in the USA.
  3. Leave enough time for this entire process to have hiccups. You will be very stressed if you have already bought your tickets (like we did) and don’t have your visas in hand.

The whole process was very stressful and frustrating, but this was the view at the end. Yay!!

Airport - 1