There will be never another first. My first international flight destination was Switzerland. All the 90’s Bollywood movies had made overly enthusiastic for my first trip to Swiss. The confusion had started much before I could fly. I was getting my visa done, but there was a small twist, though my visit was to a small city in France the nearest international airport was the Geneva international airport, so I was quite confused about the visa. I knew that Swiss wasn’t part of EU, but my stay was arranged in France and we had some visit lined up at CERN in Geneva, to settle this I decide not to mess around and get help from a travel agency. The travel agency understood my situation and suggested that I should opt for a French Schengen visa. I obliged and visited VSF and discovered something wonderful: that if you stay less than 90 days in France you get a single Schengen visa valid for 90 days and they don’t care if I am attending a school or travelling , as long as I go back and I have a confirmed air ticket. Luckily all went well and I got my visa within a day. The consulate had a very unique way of communicating, they sent a message stating ‘A decision has been taken on your Visa , please collect your passport. ” I was scared since the decision wasn’t mentioned in the message and I had already booked the air ticket. When I went to collect my passport , I was elated to have a French Schengen visa. The travel agent also further suggested that since I am having a French Visa , I should first land in France and then travel to Swiss.
There I was all set to fly, all the old stories of NatGeo’s “Banged up abroad” were playing in mind, I made sure to read everything from every source to see what are the permitted food items that can be carried to France. I was accompanied by my Uncle and a junior Bhagat Singh who had been to US to guide me in the airport. I remember taking elevator as soon as I entered airport, only to be called on my phone by my uncle to check in at counter as it in the first floor itself. I had weighed the bag before and hence I wasn’t much nervous and as soon I got the boarding pass, I stood in line for emigration. In those days they would hand you out a small slip and ask you the reason to travel, it had 3 options: travel , studies and business. I ticked the studies box and handed it to the officer, he looked my visa for a second and got confused and called his superior, I was terrified as I couldn’t believe as he said to me that my visa wasn’t a proper one, I could understand the confusion since my sojourn was less than 90 days but I had ticked the “Study” box, his superior said that “Let him go anyways his visa is valid for 90 days, its upto them to let him in or no”. These words weren’t comforting ,since it was my first travel over seas and I was terrified the whole flight. But I knew if don’t confuse the French authorities and just showed them the visa and and kept it simple it would be alright. I was however hoping secretly that they shouldn’t ask me purpose of visit, since it wasn’t a simple answer, I mean I was just planning to stay for less than 90 days , but I wasn’t sure if the school can be attended on this Visa, this fear inspite of sharing the invitation letter for school was because of the comments made my emigration officer. Anyways I landed in CDG airport , Paris and I looked at my connecting flight and went through the immigration, as I had entered Schengen region it meant I will have to show my Visa here. I stood in line and the lady called me, I handed her the passport, she looked at the photo and looked at me, she then turned few pages and said ” Where is the Visa ?” . I had a mini heart attack and then took the passport from her and opened the passport page where the visa was pasted, my new passport was a bit clumsy to be opened at the first page where my visa was pasted, she looked at it and nodded in agreement and stamped it and handed it over to me, from there I literally ran to my gates in hurry and relaxed myself for a minute once I arrived at my gate. The morning sunshine coming from large window overlooking aeroplanes at CDG helped me relax. I stood in line walking to board my plane to Geneva and as usual they asked my passport to verify the names on boarding pass and passport. I pulled out my passport and handed it , the lady scanned the barcode and let me in, as I was walking on the ramp I casually gazed at the page where the French immigration officer had stamped the passport. I realised that she had stamped the wrong date, she had stamped tomorrows date on my passport. I was worried once again , I couldn’t fathom how could this happen, I can only imagine someone asking my passport and checking the stamp in Geneva and being suspicious about it. I can honestly tell , if you are a brown guy with a such small mistake at airport it’s not a good thing. I , out of nowhere approached the cabin crew lady as I entered the plane, I first asked her my seat number and then explained her if I should be worried, she said it shouldn’t be an issues since we wont go through the immigration line since this is a kind of a domestic flight.
She understood my distraught and offered me some water, something most crew won’t do since they are quite busy when passengers are entering, she assured me not to worry. I was too tired to worry anymore and just sat back to gazed over the mountains as we flew over French-Swiss border, as expected she saw me again and smiled before leaving , I quickly asked her for a picture since it was my first international flight. She smiled and agreed and posed gleefully and asked me to have a good time. I flew a bit eventually to few more places, but it won’t be my first, but as I said all is well if its ends well.