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Customs at Port of Entry
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Demented Diary's entry for today (q.v.) reminds me of my own return to the U.S. after three years abroad, two of them in India, decades before 9/11.

I had nothing with me but the clothing I stood up in (shalwar kameez) and a day pack which had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a change of clothes and underwear, and a toothbrush. And about $300 in traveler's checks.

I had given away all my clothes (mostly saris) and books to my fellow villagers before I left India, cookstove, pots and pans, everything.

It was quite liberating, travelling light, though I must admit at times I was dressed rather oddly for the occasion. The customs officials were very suspicious. How could I possibly live for so long overseas and return with so little? Nothing to claim for customs?

I did have a gold chain with an OM charm and tiny gold earrings that I wore. The sum total of my wealth, if you didn't count the traveler's checks. Probably the most valuable thing on my body was my passport.

They searched me (and my bag) and questioned me, oh, yes they did. Where I was born, childhood memories, and so forth. I was embarrassed and frightened. Then they took me over to a place where there was a U.S. flag, they asked for my passport and were going to have me raise my right hand and swear that I was a citizen.

I took one look at the flag, held out my passport, and burst into tears and said, "I'm an American." One of the officials, an older man, handed me a kleenex, said, "There, there, it's OK, we believe you," and I was whisked away, very gently, to the exit.

I wonder where that old passport is now.

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