If you are an American living in Mumbai, chances are good that you will visit the US Consulate at least once during your stay here. But, if you have never lived abroad before, you might wonder what a consulate team does. Its primary purpose is to promote US-India relations, especially in political, economic, commercial, and agricultural affairs in western India. It also provides a wide range of services to Americans living in and visiting Mumbai’s consular district, including passport and visa renewals.
With the recent agitation in Mumbai about the local body tax (LBT) and the resulting retail bandh, the day before the event, I called the Community Liaison Officer to make sure that the consulate would be open. All the retail shops were shuttering, so the concern was that the consulate might, too. But, I was assured that even with the bandh that the consulate would be open for business as usual. The bandh did affect our plans for balloons, however. We had grand plans for 100 red, white, and blue balloons, but we could not find a balloonwala willing to open for us. Finally, we located one who was willing to open, but we were unable to secure more than 26 balloons before he was forced to close his shop. That moment illustrates how you must be willing to adapt to conditions in the city and realize that no one noticed the lack of balloons. Everyone just appreciated the effort we made to show our appreciation.
I had the opportunity to speak with many employees, and my standard question was, “So, what do you do at the consulate?” The responses were as varied as the services offered including doctor, visa officer, public affairs liaison, and political and economic affairs officer. As someone who watches current affairs in India, I must admit the political and economic affairs job might be one of the toughest at the consulate. That team takes an event like the recent elections in Gujarat, studies it, reports on it, and analyzes what it means for US interests in India. No simple task.
It was a great afternoon filled with fun and great food and gave me a new appreciation for the work the consulate does on our behalf every day. I look forward to hosting the tea again next year.