23 June, 2008

News from the Battlefield

The uncertainty of the visa process is unbearable. To remain positive I have to keep acting. I went to the France consulate in Karachi today. It was very different from the nightmares I had had of me trying to explain my plea, trembling and incoherent, to a harsh faceless entity.

The whole street was blocked off by police barriers. There was barbed wire on the boundary wall and a small but clearly distinguishable French flag. The guards outside were friendly. I asked to meet with someone and strategically handed them my Princeton ID and three letters to take inside: the email from Dr Caddeau at Princeton, Luis' letter (Luis Simon-Perez is a Princeton alum, a professor at the Sorbonne, and a very generous and friendly man), and Mrs Caseau's letter in french (also a Princeton alum). It worked. Later the guards congratulated me for getting permission to enter - many before me, including messengers from courier companies, had been denied entrance.

I was searched with a metal detector, asked to leave my bag outside, and led in through a very heavy metal door with an electronic lock and an intercom. And now I'm wondering if this might be considered unsafe to put on a blog, so I won't describe anything else I saw.

I could not meet today with the Consul General, Pierre Seillan, but at least they heard me out, advised me to send letters to some people in Islamabad, and said I might be able to meet M. Seillan tomorrow. So tomorrow I shall call and see.

There was a tall, young French security person, who looked like he could be a super hero in some children's movie. He was dressed in a smart, crisp uniform. Though I didn't really talk to him, his intent look, sincere tone, and friendly (but broken) English really made me feel welcome at the place.

Meanwhile I got email replies from Princeton officials - it seems a lot of people there know about this and are trying to brainstorm how they can help. I also found the address of Mrs Phoebe Beliard who I have been meaning to write to about this. I sent four A-4 sized envelopes marked URGENT through courier: to M. Seillan, to the ambassador, to Sylvia Fernandez, and to M. Brocard. I met with the director of the Alliance Francais. He was very friendly and empathetic, but told me he could not interfere in the process. He was very welcoming of the idea of exhibiting my work at my return to Karachi, at the AF.

A week to go till July 1st 2008.

No comments: