Saturday, November 07, 2009

Be Prepared to Be X-rayed, Stripped, Humiliated

Guess one has to live the life of an over-protected, under-privileged human being from now on. So shout it from the rooftops: “you will never be free to walk into a library, a railway station, a government office without being frisked, stared, x-rayed, in short, humiliated by musclemen who look like they haven’t slept all night thinking of their jobs. That’s all right with me, so long as I feel protected. The problem is I don’t.

I just returned from the American Centre library where my wallet, bag, and cellphone were x-rayed, and though my cellphone was on silent told in a sullen voice:

“Please switch it off sir.”

“But it is not silent. I do a job like you and I should be available twenty-four hours.”

“Switch it off, sir.” I didn’t hear “or else?” that was firmly and untactfully meant to all who might have listened.

x - x – x

Then I enter the library and borrow a book. The librarian on the mezzanine floor scans the book, hands me a slip, and when I try to exit with my book, the metal detectors go, somewhat like an infant who hasn’t been fed for an entire day:

“Pee... pee... pee...!”

Two burly security men jump to attention hands on their holsters. I am all agog, confused, which is an understatement. They barge in through the glass doors and short of pinning me down snatch the book from my hands and hand me over to the librarian, who, again look at me suspiciously and asks a few questions. Fear, naked fear courses through me. Will I be arrested as an enemy of the US? Sent to Guantanamo, or wherever they send such offenders? Extradited? Stripped?

Heart beating, pulse racing, I repeat the procedure I had followed and then she says rather sheepishly, “I guess the librarian (on the mezzanine floor) made a mistake.”

“So the mistake is yours?”


“Why am I being held if it’s your mistake?”

The beefcakes leave my skinny little arms, now aching with the unceremonious contact with authority.

“M**** ****s” I say under my breath.

My erudite childhood friend Kuriachen Kuriakose says, “Nations should strengthen their intelligence not subject citizens to futile security checks.”

He believes in Marxism and, methinks, should learn to adapt. You know dialectic materialism, class struggle and all that used to be so hot when we were misguided youths?

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