Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Iran Chronicles: Part Yek

Note: This post will talk about a "Family Member" at some part, without whom my travel would've hardly been possible (and that is all the gratitude that's going to be expressed, so it IS about Iran!)

One hot April afternoon in 2014, my travel buddy called me excitedly to ask if I was game to travel to Iran - her husband's pal had just returned from Tehran and had been raving about it.  And that the sweets in Iran were superb. Would anyone say no? And as simply as that,  we started planning our holiday.

Now, getting a visa is always a pain. Especially for housewives (yeah, get used to the term!). Even harder for housewives traveling without their husbands. And more so, when there are 2 housewives traveling. Add their clear happiness at the travel, as if running away from their domestic bliss back home, it goes up a notch to raise suspicions. We'd faced this for Israel, Oman, Bahrain, even Bangladesh. But Iran? The country took it up 2 notches.

First off, Iran is deeply suspicious of non-Iranis interested in traveling to their country. Especially when they are declared neither Muslim or Parsi, and don't seem particularly interested in any religion including their own! And then we spouted all this jargon about being interested in culture and experiential travel, and thought Iran would be a wonderful fit. And we raved about their ancient civilisation and beauty. All normal? We thought so too! But at the Consulate of the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite wearing the mandatory scarf over the head and being more docile than usual, my pal and I were met with hearty suspicion. What were we asked to do? Come back with our respective husbands to sign in person a "No Objection Certificate" 'allowing' their wives to travel to Iran as a tourist.

Now for the gratitude part - luckily both husbands turned up.  They showed exemplary wisdom both at home and at the consulate by not tittering or even smiling at the idea of 'allowing' their spouses to travel.  They also displayed considerable intelligence by not talking about our previous visit to Israel. Yes, all in all, am grateful to the Universe for my husband. He da man!

And that's how the stamping happened. Before we knew it, in September, we heard the Emirates announcement that all liquor would 'now be cleared' and that we were in Iranian airspace!

The Useful Info Part

  1. If you are traveling to Iran on a tourist visa, you need a 'letter of invitation' from the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, it is best to go through a travel agent based there (we used 'Gasht Travels', Shiraz and I cannot recommend them enough) 
  2. They require a medical test to rule out AIDS and TB. These tests have to be done at the consulate authorised medical labs only. In Mumbai, there is one at Kemps Corner that does it. 
  3. The visa processing takes 4 - 6 weeks from start to finish. And the tourist visa is usually valid only for 90 days for an Indian citizen. Single entry only. So plan accordingly. 
  4. If you have an American passport, or are traveling with a friend on a US passport (like we did, our third travel partner is a US citizen), it is best to declare it upfront in the Consulate and have her details too. 

To be continued…..

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vote of Thanks!

Gratitude Challenge : Why the Challenge, Why I am grateful for my husband and What my family means to me!

In the last year and a half, since I stopped blogging, I have had many many things to be grateful about. Maybe then it is only right that I spend an year reflecting on and writing about the little and big joys of life. But of course, the Universe has a perverse sense of humour too; so my posts shall reflect exactly that - Part Gratitude, Part Crib, Part Rambling and 3 parts Bombay Sapphire!

PS: 1.As it happens, I started the challenge 3 weeks too late :) So in true management style, I have decided to do the first 3 together.
2. I may deviate from the blog topic required regularly to write about whatever catches my fancy at that time. Consider yourself forewarned!

Why I am grateful for the Husband? 

This is a hard one to answer. Especially without being sappy! Bear with me.

Because no one has stood by me with as much confidence and trust as he has in my abilities. Because no one can make me laugh like he does, especially when I am close to tears. Because he knows when I need my third drink! Because holding his hand make me feel warm and se#y at once. Because he shares his life selflessly.  Because he is the voice of reason that I lack. But mostly because, he understands. Always.

Now before, I run out of words, let me thank the Family too.

I am grateful for them, because they let me be. My parents let me make my choices knowing that I would fall sometimes. My sister for holding my hand and being my safety net every time I fell (and continue to fall!) My grandparents for always taking my side, ensuring I got away with murder (okay, close). My dad especially, for letting me live my life on my terms (except for insisting on getting married!). My mom for being the word of caution on every account (except for urging me to have kids!) And the extended family for the fun and laughter in my childhood… and my in-laws for helping me gang up against the Husband (especially) and for always working hard to establish great communication with me.  But most of all, I am grateful to my mom for instilling a love for travel, to explore, to seek new experiences all the time. And to my dad for showing me how to be optimistic always and live life on the edge.

Phew! This challenge is harder than I thought. Its going to be a lot of work, being thankful all the time. But then, a challenge is exactly that.  Hard. And hopefully the Force will be With Me!