I’m not a fan of immigration counters. Always a nation’s first line of offense. Whether India or abroad, I have noticed indifference and sometimes rudeness which is ostensibly justified by the need to scrutinize.
Today I made a harrowing journey. Beset by the usual problems; delayed flight, security check, security check for security check, test of purity and piety for traveling to the United States, armrest wrestling, turbulence, a useless airport layout which forces the aircraft to taxi to its gate in the same time it takes to get to its destination, Formula Disembark, Formula Immigration Line, etc.
The person at the immigration counter called me. I expected the usual questions about employers, residence, mild curiosity about my role and utter disinterest halfway through any explanation.
“I see you’ve been here before. Where do you work?”
I told him.
I was taken aback. I had never heard commiseration or sympathy at an immigration counter.
“Yes, quite. Thanks for asking.” I replied, a bit unsure of where this was going.
I’m not a citizen, not even sure how long I’ll be staying. Despite that he quickly stamped my passport, beamed a big smile and said:
“Welcome back. Welcome home.”
My dour face had to give up. I smiled and thanked him walking away with a little less lead on my feet. This wasn’t home, this wasn’t even family. But for a short while it felt good to belong.