I Belong Here

An immigration check causes a wave of solidarity

| May-June 2010

I am living in Boston with my American fiancée when we decide to take a vacation in the UK. Standing in the customs queue at a London airport, we compare passports. Hers is sleek and clean, whereas my Indian passport resembles a small, tattered Bible. My photograph is pasted in, and spelling mistakes are corrected in Wite-Out.

My passport tells the story of my immigrant life: my student and work visas; all the entry and exit stamps as I traveled between India and the United States. Soon my fiancée and I will be married, and I’ll have a brand-new U.S. passport in which to write the next chapter of my life.

When we reach the British immigration official, she gives my fiancée’s passport a quick look and is done. Then she fingers the worn cardboard cover of mine, sighs, and says, “Would you please step this way for an immigration check.”

The official gestures to a wooden bench where an old Sikh man in a saffron turban and a huddled Bangladeshi family sit.

I’m not like them, I want to say to the official. I live in Boston. But all the official sees is a brown face and an Indian passport. My fiancée says she will sit with me. The official shrugs.

Sitting on the hard wooden bench, I watch each white person clear immigration in seconds and am filled with hopelessness; the British, who ruled my country for decades and taught me the English that I speak, have always had the power to keep me out of their country.

David Wise_1
5/4/2010 6:55:25 PM

Very good story. I can relate to it. Shanti

David Wise_2
5/4/2010 6:55:03 PM

Very good story. I can relate to it. Shanti