[Refurbished post from the old blog.]
During a conversation with my folks, I was recounting a particularly amusing incident that had happened to mom and me, as we were migrating back to India.
Our last few years in Dubai were financially difficult for us, and because of a whole bunch of reasons, we had to come back in an amnesty. So to get our butts back to the motherland, we had to have our expired visas cancelled by the authorities. The process for this was not complicated, but it was separate for men and women. So one fine morning, mom and I went to the immigration department in Dubai to get our visas cancelled.
Without meaning to be classist or full of myself, we didn’t fit the mould of the average defaulter. So basically when we were in line, we stood out like sore thumbs amongst the housemaids, gardeners, cleaners, and so on. We waited quietly in line, and I was holding passports clutched in my fist.
My passport was a modest 2 booklets, because I was only 19 at the time. Mom’s, on the other hand, had 4 booklets. Don’t even get me started on Dad’s passport. I was holding both passports together, when one of the surtas (cops) saw my hand and exclaimed loudly.
She called us up to the table, and asked with incredulity, “YOU two want amnesty?! And for God’s sake, HOW many of you are there?”
A little confused, I replied: “I have only two passports.”
She snorted: “These are just two passports? How long have you people lived here?”
Mom: “26 years.”
Her jaw literally dropped open. She halted the queue (hard to believe she was from UAE, she was behaving just like an Indian government official), and called her colleagues together.
They jabbered in Arabic for a while, examined the passports carefully. All I understood were the exclamations of astonishment. By this time, Mom and I were fighting to stay serious. The whole situation was ridiculous.
One of the cops turned to me and then said: “But you were born in Sharjah! You are a UAE national. Why the hell are you going back?”
We laughed, answered their questions and finished the formalities. It lightened up a considerably stressful day. We were guests in someone else’s country after all, nothing could change that.
Returning to India gave us peace. No visas, no hassles – as far as we were concerned. We settled down to our lives here. When my Dad moved to Goa, we followed, and after a long LONG time, the family was together again.
When I was in Pune, I heard a lot of nonsense about “Maharashtra for the Maharashtrians”. None of my contemporary Marathis subscribed to this philosophy. I figured they were uncouth and ridiculous people.
I visited Bangalore, where someone categorically told us that they wanted no more people to move to the state. WTF? (Just as an aside, I have Kannadiga blood in me too.)
But the worst was reserved for Goa. Up to this point, all this happened to OTHER people – at least in India. I still considered myself an Indian – after all, what choice do I have with my parentage?
Somebody in Goa called me a migrant. I was stunned. A migrant? Till I realised that the Goans don’t want us here. I considered settling down in Goa, but now I am completely against it. I don’t want to stay anywhere where I am not wanted.