I know people always accuse me of being over-friendly and talking to everybody. By “people”, I, of course, mean my wife and two daughters. But they cannot blame me for what happened today.
I arrived at Kolkata airport early morning to start my long 30 hour haul back to Atlanta thru Dubai. Today being Id (Bakhrid, I think), it is a holiday here and both the roads and the airport were pretty empty. I breezed thru checkin, immigration and then had to go through security. I had put my stuff on the conveyor belt and then was getting frisked by this young CISF guy. Just before he stamped my boarding pass (the process in India is different from US), he suddenly looked at me and asked softly “Aap Hindustani hai?” (Are you from India?).
I affirmed that and his next question was “Aap ka wahan pe security kaise hota hai?” (How is airport security done where you live?).
I started explaining to him the process in US and then noticed that there was a queue behind me. He also nodded me away realizing that I might be in a hurry. I picked up my stuff and instead of going to me gate, sat in a chair nearby.
After the queue had died down in about ten minutes, I walked up to him and asked him if he wanted to hear the rest of it. He was very eager. So, I explained how we take off our shoes and belts and watches etc unlike in India. I also explained how we have to take out the liquids and gels in a ziploc bag. (I did not have to do any of those things at Kolkata). He was very interested and intrigued by how the scatter-ray machines work at US airport. His conclusion was “Aap log bohut advanced hai”. (You guys are very advanced).
I then explained also how TSA Pre works. He agreed with the concept. “Do char logon ki liye baaki logon ko bohut taklif hoti hai” (Everybody suffers because of a couple of bad guys).
I found out that Rakesh Singh is from Mughalsarai area in Bihar and he joined the CISF at a very early age to be able to support his family back in Bihar. He was excited that he will be meeting them during Diwali in a few weeks. Before I left, I asked him why did he pick on me to ask his questions. He said that before frisking me, he noticed my name on the boarding card and that the passport was from US. He guessed rightly that I am from India now settled in US!!
I wished him the best on his road ahead and told him that with the level of intellectual curiosity he has and his ability to observe and judge, he is going to have a great career in front of him.
I walked away thinking how I always avoided those stern looking machine-gun toting CISF guys at Indian airports – and yet, at the end of the day, every one of them is a human being. And like all human beings, each one of them has a story….