Passport photos

Kuano nadi, satilcri, need, shaantljaane kab hogi aachitij, laal, uddhaam, Bahut gareeb hai yeh dharti/Jahan yeh behti hai.

– Sarveshwar

Kuano river, thin, blue, calm/Whets will it spread to the horizon, turn red, turbulentivery poor is this land where it flows.

 – translated by Amitava Kumar

I remember the first time I came into the USA. It was also the first time 1 had ever boarded an airplane. The immigration officer looked at the visa page on my passport. Then he looked up and asked what I was in the US for. I am going to graduate school, I tell him. He turns around and shouts to the officer in the next cubicle, "Looks like the whole world is going to school in America." It may have been his attempt at livening up a boring day but to me it did not sound welcoming at all. And then he proceeds to write F-1 on the immigration form. I froze. I had a J-1 visa. I had been warned—any mistakes could have serious repercussions. After a moment's hesitation, I piped up: "Excuse me, I have a J-1 visa." "Smart aleck, huh!" he comments. "Yes, a darned sight smarter than you," I felt like screaming but didn't. What would he know of my plans, my hopes and my fears. All he knew about me was what was in my passport.

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Himal Southasian