Cheers to a global world!!!

by Pushpa Iyer

To the immigration officer who berated an elderly Indian couple at the airport:

You told the gentleman who was wheeling his wife in a wheelchair that it was essential to respond to your greeting with a greeting. That is how it worked in “this” country. Especially if they were permanent residents in “your” country. Have you considered that when someone elderly gets off a long flight (16 hours) and encounters a foreign accent in a different country, they may sometimes be disoriented? Or culturally, they may respond with a smile instead of actually saying “hello”? Not every culture greets a stranger with a “hello.” In some countries greeting an officer might look like you are trying to win favor from them. But, yes, they were in “your” country so they must follow your rules. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.  I get it but I’m wondering if there is some way of giving people the benefit of the doubt when they do not follow your customs the minute they encounter them.

In response to your questions, they told you their son was an American citizen, and they were visiting him.  You then commented on how smart their son was to have played by the rules and managed to go from a work visa to permanent residency and then to citizenship. Indeed, he must be smart and doing very well in his career or else his company, probably American, would not have spent all the money to sponsor him through his various stages of residency in this country. Just as many Americans, like my students, travel to different parts of the part to build their career (not save the world because we are all saving the world). According to a State department report in 2016, around 9 million Americans were working abroad, roughly 2.7% of its population. According to a UN report in 2015, there were approximately 16 million Indians classified as Non-Resident Indians (living and working in different parts of the world), about 1% of its population. I am using these statistics as an indicator, not as conclusive evidence, of where we stand with migration in both countries. For many Indians living in the United States, the pros of a better standard of living outweigh the cons of being treated as outsiders and therefore second-class citizens. For Americans living in India, reports suggest that the disadvantages of difficult and sometimes dangerous living conditions are undermined by the high salaries, low cost of living, and being treated like royalty. It all evens out, I think. The universe has a strange way of restoring balance. Do you agree?

You also threw in a comment about how many unwanted people were entering your country and how many people were misusing the system. No human being is unwanted, and minorities do not abuse the system, but it is the faulty system that demands them to be creative and strategic. Further, the system fails because those who have the power, like immigration officers, interpret the system to make it even more oppressive than it is on paper. Our world needs more kindness and warmth, not hatred and mistrust.

I hope that if you have a son or daughter and that if you one day wanted to visit them where they were (and trust me everyone is moving – if not to another country then to another city or region), that no one would call you an unwanted visitor but that you would be welcomed as a loving father who liked spending time with his child. The world is a beautiful place and how lucky we are to meet and greet people from every corner of the world. Let’s celebrate exchanges of people and their culture, language, food, clothing, ideas, and beliefs.