December 13, 2023
Potted plants dot the walkway leading into a small, first-floor Hanuman temple in South Delhi. A few devotees cover their heads, lying prostrate before the idols inside. Neera Sharma, a U.S.-based architect, and her mother are coming out after offering prayers. Following Sharma’s studies in the U.S., she applied for the elusive H-1B visa to stay on and work there. But, in 2019 and 2021, Sharma wasn’t lucky enough to get one.
Sharma had always considered herself spiritual. So, in 2021, she jumped at the chance to visit this particular Hanuman temple, where visa applicants went to pray. A few months later, she got the O-1 visa, for those with extraordinary abilities and achievements. “It’s a hard visa to get — they really scrutinize you,” she said, referring to the O-1. Despite her initial sadness over her lost H-1B, she admitted: “I managed to do better.” Though grateful to Hanuman, she knew she had also made her own efforts.
India is officially secular, but religion permeates every aspect of life. With so many uncertainties in the immigration process, for the truly desperate, belief is a crutch on which to hang their hope — even when the odds are increasingly in their favor.