Thursday, March 19, 2015

What's in a Citizenship?

Thudup. Thudup. Thudup. Thudup.
I hear the guard's sluggish footsteps
before I see his paunch precede
the rest of his tall body.
I watch this on repeat for
several minutes (144. I was counting)
past my scheduled interview time
Anxiety rising. Number of attempts
at mindfulness rising proportionately.
When she finally opened the door
with its now familiar ka-thump,
I hardly registered a butchered version of
Suparna  Kudesia.
I took a few milliseconds more than usual
to register that it was my turn.
American history dates and facts
swarming through my nervous brain.

I followed Officer Running-Two-Hours-Late-Albeit-Apologetic
into the back offices.
I found myself staring at 3 oversized files,
reeking of bureaucracy and the shock
I was exuding upon seeing 8 years
of my existence captured in beige files.
Files categorized with one number -
My A-number.
Alien number.
"Raise your right hand. You are under oath.
Do you..."

"I do" I have. I have moved to a new country
Learned new rules
Found old ways to question them
Learned to drive on the other side of the road
and conjure a fake American accent in a heartbeat
I have been here, paid taxes, protested, stood up for people's rights,
taught American children in public schools
So yes, I do.

"Do you want to try and get sworn in today?"
Today? Today I can be adopted by the United States?
I cried. I smiled. I got sworn in.
Welcomed by Madeline Albright and Barack Obama
I left feeling unusually different...
There's a lot to hold - 
the whys and what the heck just happened,
the wow, my Indian passport has little meaning 
of it all.
For now though, I celebrate
becoming a citizen of the United States!

6 parent-student-teacher conferences and being interviewed and tested to become and then sworn in as a U.S. citizen - all in a day's work.

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