Passport: Patricia Rozario - `Getting visas is a real headache'

My passports are always full of stamps. I keep an Indian passport even though I have lived in Britain for 20 years. It's a sentimental thing. My mother still lives there and I like the feeling that I can get back home at any moment.

Getting visas is a real headache, though. In fact, I've just come back from a battle at the Spanish embassy where I was trying to renew my Schengen [most of Europe] visa. I had all the correct paperwork but the woman in the embassy still gave me an earful. She told me I was lucky next to my compatriots. She even seemed to be complaining that my job was more interesting than hers. Why do they have to speak so nastily? I told her I didn't understand why she was in a rage.

People ask why I attend embassies in person when I could get others to sort my visas out. I think it's because I want to keep in touch with normal life. I want to know how we foreigners are being treated.

I once had a difficult time flying into Athens very late at night. I had a visa but the man behind the desk didn't dare take responsibility for letting me in while his boss was asleep. My composer friend who spoke Greek protested: "She's a famous singer. She's singing at the Megaron." But his Greek was not that good so they decided to let me go and detain him instead. "You go, madam," they said. I refused. It took a lot of persuasion to let my friend go.

Which passport stamps do I remember best? A Chinese visa intrigued me. I got myself one when I was alone in Hong Kong. The visa only took a few hours to be issued and it was an old-fashioned one, which I liked. The whole experience of just going over the border was beautiful. It was lovely to see all those Chinese people.

As for India, I go back every year now. I helped start a musical festival in Bombay a few years ago, which I always attend. When I was younger, it used to be emotionally hard for me to go back - I couldn't take more than a couple of weeks. Nowadays, I am much happier and more relaxed about going.

Bombay, where I was born and brought up, carries a great sense of survival. It's such an active, tough, positive place, in spite of all the competition. People still manage to have fun even when they are up against it. I get renewed when I see my friends there. Over here there is more of a tendency just to get depressed about things.

I'm a bit of a curiosity over there. People ring up my parents when they read about me. Western classical opera isn't well-known in India, but sometimes after performances Indians come and tell me that they enjoyed my voice in spite of not understanding the music. It's great to think I might have turned them on to opera.

Patricia Rozario is an Indian soprano. She is performing on 4 and 6 February in the Canary Islands, and on 1 March at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

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