Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lost in translation

There is something about queues. It's like when you finally get to the end of it and reach your 'said destination' i.e the person at the counter at the end of the queue, you are expected to give a completely choreographed performance. And so when I waited inordinately long in line at the US Immigration last week, I realised that an act at the end of it was in order. Not that I hadn't done it before -- it's just that you never really get used to these things.

So as I waited, I shifted my not so ample frame from one foot to another, itching to open a bag of crisps, but wondering if that would be against immigration etiquette. An hour later, I was the 'next in line', waiting to be summoned. I could see from the corner of my eye that the Immigration officer, who was bordering on cute was having an exasperating time explaining what 'extra pressure' was to a bewildered Japanese tourist, who was having his index fingers thumb printed, not to much avail. I made a mental note of applying 'just the right amount of pressure'. And voila! It was my turn.

"And how are you today?", he asked in a voice that only Americans can. I was, by this point suitably distracted by a family that had nearly paraded their heirlooms in front of another officer. 'I don't know, I am too dazed..it was an awfully long flight," I blurted.
'Ah, I see (sound effects of pages of my passport being flipped here).
He then asked me what I did in Bombay and I said I was a journalist.
"What kind?", he probed. I was distracted again.
 "Magazine or newspaper?" he prodded further...
"Oh, yes, newspaper"
"So what do you write on?"
"Men, women..."
Curiouser and curiouser...
"People, places, celebrities, trends, lifestyles, attitudes.." I did some damage control...
"So you are a generalist, not a journalist.." His verdict was out, and my passport was stamped.

I seriously have to re-examine my job, I thought.


And then there is something about brothers. Even if you have been in queue for two years, there is still no performance expected at the end of it. By this I mean, on either side. So it's okay to unwrap your Xbox 360 and gloat over its goodies the exact same night that your sister has crossed seven seas (I am not sure, I wasn't counting) to meet you. It's okay to have piles of laundry so high, that you can't walk around the house without being run over. It's okay to have stuff in the fridge so old that illegal aliens have acquired permanent residency status. It's okay to have mails unopened, houseplants unattended and consequently withered, books and DVDs unreturned..

But, at the same time, it's okay for you to lie in the exact same posture in bed when he leaves the house and when he returns. It's okay for you to tell him you don't really want to meet any more family. It's okay for you to ask him to take you out for a drink at midnight, because you just 'feel' like it. It's okay for you not to talk when you don't want to.

Because no matter how much older you are, you will always be the 'little' sister that stayed a foot shorter.

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