Since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of going to India. It has always seemed magical to me, a place I know I would easily fall in love with. Earlier this year, I believed that my dreams of visiting had finally come true. That was until Cox & Kings got a hold of my passport, and now, they don’t seem to want to give it back.
On June 5th, over three weeks ago, VisaHQ sent over an e-mail informing me that my passport had been submitted to Cox & Kings, the company processing Indian visas. I felt confident that my visa had more than enough time for processing and even planned to get my Russian visa afterwards.
When VisaHQ wasn’t giving me the answers I wanted, I decided to go directly to Cox & Kings to get everything straightened out. Or, so I thought.
I arrived at the building yesterday at 11:30am and was told that I should come back at 4:00pm for pick up. When I told the security guard, who wouldn’t let me anywhere near the office, that I had no idea if my passport was even ready, he told me to come back at 3:00pm. I wasn’t excited about wasting all that time when I had so much to pack, but I was hopeful.
At about 3:15pm, I arrived back at Cox & Kings and was greeted by an already long line, still I was hopeful. We were told that we would be allowed in at 4:00pm, but they didn’t actually start taking people until 4:40pm. The only people allowed inside were the first twenty-one, and I assumed we’d eventually follow, but that never happened. No one was allowed in and no one came out; my hopes began to crumple.
Now, in the sun, we waited and waited for the security guard and man in charge to tell us what to do. They started to take twenty papers at a time, not letting us inside, but telling us that they would check if our passports had been returned from the consulate. Then, they’d come downstairs and either hand back a passport or tell the person to come back Monday. The people who were told to come back Monday were yelled at if they wanted to ask a question and were told that the visa was not upstairs and that they needed to leave.
The frustration began to set in, as many of the people waiting had spent several days waiting in this line at Cox & Kings, each day they were treated the same. The man in charge was condescending and patronizing as he spoke to all who waited outside. As if he was a man with way too much power, and we were all at his mercy.
When he came downstairs with someone’s passport, he acted as if he should be showered with excessive words of gratitude, as if we, paying customers, owed him everything for receiving our passports. If he did not have a passport or explanation, and someone got upset, he handled it as if he was talking to children and refused to even talk to concerned customers. Two people even called the police to assist them, and I learned that this is an almost daily occurrence, though nothing seems to change.
Eventually, the passports coming out belonged to people standing behind me, and not once was my presence acknowledged, so I just waited there. Slowly, people began dispersing and a small crowd was all that was left. There were about fifteen of us who had stayed the whole time, and at that point, he brought those who remained upstairs. It was 8:45pm, and I was exhausted from standing the entire afternoon and evening.
I don’t know what made me believe that getting upstairs was my golden ticket, but my hopes once again dissipated as I was greeted with many others who had clearly been there a while. We were told that our cell phones must be away, and that we would sit there and wait while names of those passports just returned from the consulate were read. It was pointless, and not one person who was upstairs actually left with a passport.
We were the ones with the problems, the serious problems, the lost passports, but nothing was being done about that. Instead, we were asked to leave pieces of paper with our names and telephone numbers so that they could call us if our passports had been returned. I left at 10pm feeling hopeless, as though deep down I knew my trip to India wasn’t going to happen when I thought it was.
In traffic, I thought of the way we had been treated, and how incredibly unfair it was. I feel as though I am being punished for wanting to visit India. The way the employees behaved was unacceptable and the way we were spoken to was appalling.
I realize that the workers are under stress, but what I witnessed was not a stressful environment, but an unwillingness to work with people and come up with a solution. Instead, I have received no answers and there is no one for me to turn to and no choice but to cancel tomorrow’s flight.
The phone numbers provided by Cox & Kings are answered in India, providing no help. We all shared our stories of this on line last night. No one in the office will even talk to you or answer a question, so I’m not sure how I am ever supposed to find out where my passport is. I’ve written to the consulate, left messages on their machine, and sent e-mails to the media. I am also considering speaking to a lawyer, and at least filing a police report because at this point, I have no other choice but to believe that my passport has been stolen.
Something needs to be done about this situation, and not just for me, but for anyone who has been involved in this process. It’s degrading and there is such a lack of customer service and professionalism, it’s a wonder this company is even in business. If you’re planning on applying for a visa for India, my advice is to wait until this mess with Cox & Kings is sorted; I wouldn’t trust anything of value with this company.