Becoming a citizen is a commitment

You might recall my struggles with my passport, off and on, particularly when I’m marked for special security searches in Heathrow and San Francisco, its just so much fun then being from a third world country. Goddamnit. I don’t know about you but I’m about totally pissed off with the way things are in the world today. And very specifically I’m pissed off at the way everyone goes around pretending that they aren’t specially targetting South Asians AROUND the world for [insert snarky voice] "domestic security" concerns.

Ooh Ouch. You’d think that by now my soft currency third world passport would have gained some respectability, carrying with it the power to waive visas and open borders like the developed nations do. Even Singapore is on that list of special countries whose citizens are welcomed across some of the harshest immigration barriers in the world. And not just today. Its always been that way it seems, I remember once, in May 1991, that would be 16 years ago, and I was here in New Delhi. The LA Riots were taking place then and I remember I had to go to the US embassy to apply for a business visa in order to accompany my then boss for a conference. Nope. Zip. Nada.

First, they were only giving out 80 tokens each day, due to the heightened security as the riots had put the US on high alert. If we wanted to be sure to be in the magic 80 to get into the embassy and actually be able to apply for a visa – oh wow, what joy, considering there was a greater than 70% chance of rejection if not higher if you were educated and english speaking. They made the blanket assumption, patronizingly, that if you were educated and could speak english, you were a potential illegal immigrant and hence wouldn’t be given a visa, ever.

Or at least not until you got yourself tied down flat by marriage, a house and a job, being able to convince the almighty gatekeepers, those issuers of the visitor’s visa’s to India’s teeming hordes, of the ties that tightly bound you to your homeland and thus ensured your return from their bountiful, abundant land that you just had to want to move to, ick, have you tried living in New Delhi through summer ever?

I’ve been thinking about what differentiates a developed nation from a developing nation – its respect for it’s sovereignity, it’s nationhood, and thus, by extension, it’s citizens and it’s passport. The day my Indian passport lets me walk without cringing across any border in the world, that day will be the day my country has become a developed nation.


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2 Responses to Becoming a citizen is a commitment

  1. Otto says:

    Hi Niti,
    I suppose I’m one of these ‘silent readers’ of your blog and agree with a lot of your views on design + business. I feel even more affinity with your views on (and pride in) emerging economies and the words you posted here. Though a Dutch citizen (and therefore considered ‘non-threatening’ to many countries) myself, I have also been there, held up in the arrivals lounge of [fill in any U.S. gateway airport]. Worse yet, my wife is from Brazil so we know your gripes all too well.
    But in the end, I suppose I’d be happy to know if I was in your situation that I would hail from a country which (likes Brazil) receives non-natives with open arms, which looks to the future with more than just fear of losing what it’s already got, and manages to get the best out of the people who take part in this influx.
    There’s a great saying “you are what you do”. Or should it be: “you are how you treat others”?

  2. Niti Bhan says:

    Well Otto, thank you for your kind words. Your last line on sayings reminds me of my father’s saying, he used to explain our attitude and welcome to any guest in our home, it was Athithi Devobhava –

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