Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Have you been shoe checked? Ok another way to rephrase that....."Welcome to America remove your shoes, belt uhh you can have your pants on"

Why are American immigration officials/Customs people so rude? I have travelled to a lot of places before, particularly the middle east and it is always horrendous because Arabs generally dont have a high regard for Indians or anyone brown or black for that matter. I always thought that things would be different in America or the UK because the people there are atleast a little broad minded. But I guess you just cannot make such premises without experiencing things first hand.

Once when My father and I had to transit via Dahran,Saudi Arabia we were shocked by the way an immigration official in the Airport talked to us. He first asked me and my dad to hand our passports and made us sit in a corner. The guy then just disappeared with the passport then resurfaced back after a couple of minutes without it. My dad always is very nervous when it comes to passports and he simply could not fathom the reason why they had to take away the passports if we were just transiting through the Dahran International Airport. So when the guy came back without the passport my dad went over to him and asked him where our passports were and why it was taken. The guy stared coldly at my dad and told him that he should speak only if he was spoken to. My dad just lost it but there was no point screaming at this doofus and especially in a country like Saudi Arabia, you will not be surprised if they will pronounce you guilty and chop your hands off.

Something similar happened to a History professor named Ramachandra Guha. He was on his way to Berkley from Toronto to deliver a lecture. He was on a B1 visa which entitles him to receive a paycheck for 9 days at a time in upto 5 universities. But, the immigration official on seeing his VISA and the letter of invitation from berkley (which had his remuneration) told him that "you get paid so much for teaching HISTORY!, how is that possible?You cannot get paid on this VISA" and refused him entry. This history professor received an apology letter from UC Berkley which stated

expressing shock at "such discriminatory and unjustified exclusion", and anger at the "terrible injustice you had to endure... [from] these cretins". "Don’t give up on us. Hopefully, there will be a new president elected on Tuesday." I write this on Monday, but I fear that even if John Kerry wins, the paranoia towards the foreigner shall persist.

There was this biologist called Haldane way back in 1960 who was also requested to deliver a lecture in Columbia Univ. but refused a VISA as he refused to "name all the organisations of which you are or have been a member of affiliate since your 16th birthday (with inclusive dates)"

His reply was very interesting,

I do not know when I joined the Association of Scientific Workers or the anti-fascist front, or whatever. This visa form is unworthy of the land of the free and the brave.If I wished to blow up the Empire State Building or subvert the Republican Party I should doubtless be willing to sign false statements. But I happen to have a professional prejudice in favour of the truth.... It seems to be ridiculous that a great country like yours (or rather its government) should be so frightened of what I can do as to make such demands.

I just wish had the balls like Haldane did. But, I did quiver when they asked me to remove my shoes for the first time.. But I have taken a vow that I will express my displeasure if anything unreasonable was expected of me instead of just meekly submitting myself to their authority.


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