Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Humiliation is not an emotion I take to easily. It is probably because it is the most difficult to talk or reason oneself out of. Everything else can be tackled with a degree of logic and a large pillow into which one can drown one's sorrows. Humiliation hurts somewhere at the back. It prickles, resounds, echoes and dies down very gradually. Let's start at the begining. Many months ago, I gladly agreed to give a farewell dinner for Diploman, a good friend. I requested (and promptly received) a list of friends he would like to see invited for the event. This included an Ambassador and his wife. I dutifully trotted out the invitations and (surprise!) even got RSVP's. The Age of Etiquette is not entirely dead. The Ambassador and his wife would be delighted to attend.
Come the dinner. All goes well. There are subsequent invitations to and from His Excellency including a request that they be allowed to take visiting friends up to the Sanctuary. I have no problem with this. Nor, apparently, do Their Excellencies. I gladly assume that I am an "acquaintance" in the grand scheme of things. Back at work a summer intern has a problem. These are young budding professionals who want to acquire some kind of experience before they leave for college. The young intern in question has applied for a visa and has submitted all the required documents. Unfortunately his visa request is declined because some of the documents are incomplete. He submits a revised set of documents but is met by a stony silence from the Embassy which continues for over two months. The days go by. His panic levels increase. Eventually he musters the courage to inquire whether I know the Ambassador in question. It is the self same one I had invited earlier. I promise no surprises but agree to call. That is when it all began.
After trying a dozen times to reach the Embassy, the menial operator has the temerity to ask why I am calling. "I need to speak to the Ambassador. It's about a visa." "The Ambassador does not give visas," responds the snotty S.O.B. "I am perfectly aware of that. I just need some help."
"Wait" he interjects. After twenty minutes of muzak I am put through to H.E's secretary. "He's a very busy man. He cannot be disturbed for something as trivial as this." "Well. Err. He is a friend and....." "FRIEND" she bellows, seizing on the word. "How can he be a FRIEND of yours." By now I am blushing. "Well, he's been over for dinner with his wife. And he's stayed at my place." This cuts no ice. "Call back in a few days."
I do call back in a few days. The summer intern is now feverish with anxiety and has been spotted walking into closed doors more than once. The Wardress of Belsen is put through to me once more. "I have spoken to the Ambassador. He has never heard of you." I am stunned. Even if I am unworthy of recognition it would have diplomatic to state, at the very least, that he couldn't immediately recall me. If this is the calibre of people running international diplomacy then we are very lucky to merely seen only two world wars. I decide to avoid being personal. "Listen. This had nothing to do with me. There's a hysterical kid out here who needs to know whether he's going to make it to college. He's not related to me, I have no personal stake in his future. I merely happen to be human." There's a long pause. I hear a breath on the other end. At least I know she breathes - occasionally. And then I get the information I had requested a week before.
What is it about Diplomatic services that instils an immediate sense of superiority? Is it the fact that they think they are truly a cut above the rest? Or do they live in such rarefied climes that speaking to someone they perceive as a lesser being is a nuisance? Surely the art of diplomacy involves the ability to cut across a swathe of cultures and people and to be able to communicate with them all. If a simple request requires a snub and half a dozen calls to be answered, I shudder to think how more complicated matters of state are handled. I am now convinced that the mess the world is in is partly due to the quality of the people at the very helm of affairs. Oh yes. I am still puce with humiliation. Peace.


Blogger Sin said...

Oh, I couldn't agree with you more. The one time Diplomat tried something similar (not involving visas, but a visit to the American Club in Karachi), I made it abundantly clear to all involved that they could go fuck themselves before ever behaving that way with me again. Apologies were instant and heartfelt...many times the diplomats themselves don't know what's going on, at least from what I can tell.

7:00 pm  
Blogger livinghigh said...

aaaa... no experience in de diploamtic dept, am afraid, but bureaucrats are just as bad! ;-)

9:29 am  
Blogger say what? said...

You know i see your point .. I know all this because things like this have happened with me ..

But dont ignore the other side of the story too..

See if they walk with the rest of us humans, it might interfere with thier job. Think of it this way. you have a task that you have to submit at the end of the day and since you cant complete it without concentrating, you would surely hate people for asking questions about other things. It slows down the actual thing that has to happen.

The only wrong thing that happened in this whole story is that embassies dont let people know about their application status. That should be detested.

9:30 am  

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