ডাকবাংলায় আপনাকে স্বাগত
Indian musicians have usually taken great pleasure in travelling to different parts of the world for performances. Overseas concert tours were, for many, some of the most exciting and greatly coveted opportunities in their professional careers. With the Covid pandemic wreaking death and destruction across the world, these opportunities of travelling and performing overseas ceased almost entirely for all artists in the last two years. Fortunately, a tentative and gradual recovery is now perceptible, with artists once again making their way across the globe to perform and hold audiences in thrall with their skill and artistry. Which makes this an appropriate moment to try and assess how easy or challenging it is currently for Indian artists to travel overseas currently in a post-pandemic world.
Without a visa, there can be no possibility of travelling internationally, and this is where many Indian artistes face a first and sometimes final hurdle. As per reports in the media, visa appointments for many countries currently require a waiting period of several months and in some cases, even years. I learnt from colleagues that the earliest visa appointments available for a trip to the USA were in May 2024, for an assignment scheduled for January 2023. Similar instances were reported by other fellow artistes too. Such inordinately long delays severely impact artiste mobility and will ultimately end up robbing artistes of the opportunity to accept performing opportunities overseas. While I have little or no understanding of the complexities of visa policies and processes, it would not be unreasonable to hope that someone somewhere, perhaps in the Ministry of External Affairs, or Ministry of Culture could take this issue up on behalf of artistes and see if a solution could at least be discussed urgently, even it were to take time to implement. Sadly, the artiste community is on its own now as it has been for the last two years or more, and in all likelihood there will be no attempt to address this problem by anyone. Artistes will just have to reconcile with staying home and not performing overseas just yet.
In the fortunate event that artistes are able to travel overseas after having obtained visas, there are many other issues that cause severe anxiety and travel fatigue. Delayed or lost baggage particularly on hopping flights are the stuff that nightmares are made of for any artiste. Traveling with instruments for professional engagements, and finding that instruments have either been left behind or worse, lost or damaged is nothing short of disastrous for an artiste. While this problem existed even in the past, cases of baggage delays and mishandling of bags is reported more frequently with many airlines facing severe staff shortage post the pandemic.
In several countries like the United Kingdom, cashless transactions are the trend. If you want to book an Uber ride, or pay for food items at a restaurant or on a delivery app, cash will not be accepted and often credit or debit card transactions on Indian cards are not succesful, even if international transactions have been activated. Changing RBI rules, incompatible technology related issues or a variety of other reasons could be responsible for this inconvenience. But it is a strange situation where you have both cash and a credit card, but neither will work because the former is no longer accepted, and the latter may or may not work when required.
I daresay, some of the thrill of traveling across the globe as an artiste could be dampened in the circumstances.