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Saturday, May 29, 2010

an expat in self-imposed house arrest

Between the comfort-sheets in his bed, at his company accommodation building, Binu P Babu cannot sleep. He has been deprived of sleep and peace of mind since finding that he could not travel abroad for his wedding. The long-awaited wedding, which was due to have taken place last month in his native Kerala, India, was 'indefinitely' postponed because 'the bridegroom was trapped in some visa problem,' his distressed family learnt.

The problem? Binu, a 31-year-old hotel management graduate, has a Number 72 visa which is blacklisted in Kuwait. He 'bought' the job visa through somebody who knows somebody who could arrange a visa in the name of a bogus company that may exist only on paper. At the time of his visa being issued around a year ago, everything seemed okay. Until he tried to travel for his wedding...

Things looked much better at the time when he got a job as a chef with a local food production company a few months back. Having obtained a proper job with a proper visa and a good salary with food and accommodation perks, it seemed, for an eligible bachelor, like the most suitable time to consider marriage and the most fitting time to organize his visa transfer. The former plan went smoothly, thanks to the efforts of the groom's and bride's parents. The latter plan, he assumed, would also go well, except
he was told by the company expeditor to wait till the expiry of the old residence.

And then the problems started. The transfer, he discovered, could not be processed because his old visa is considered illegal. Despite the bad news, Binu's new employers stood by him as he went through the inevitable complex legal procedures. In the days that followed, he was asked by his current employer to give up the chef's job. Within days his residence was over. The once blushing bridegroom, now pale over the unexpected events begged the company: "I've to go! It's my wedding.

The company offered him an alternative: cancel the visa, pay the overstaying days' 'karama' at the airport, and go home now. At Kuwait International Airport, however, his dreams failed to take off. "You are not at fault," the kindly customs officer there told him, "but your visa is number 72".

Binu who is aware that he is part of the problem now wants to be part of the solution. His new company has continued to offer him support through the ongoing process of legal action and he has been given a room in one of the apartments they provide for staff, with his coworkers becoming far more than simply friends in need.

Things haven't gone as badly as they could on the home front back in India either. Although the whole wedding, arranged by the bride's and groom's parents could have been called off, this hasn't happened and Binu's future wife didn't write him off as someone with a 'criminal record of involvement in a visa racket.' The wedding will take place when the legal complexities have been ironed out. The 'when' remains to be seen.

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