later today, i will be picking up my passport. the naya MRP walla. in an effort to be inspired, to be responsive, to no longer trudge through life listlessly, i’ve decided my passport in a worthy topic to jot down a few thoughts about.
i find it slightly surprising, but there is so much i want to say.
for most of my life i’ve never really thought about my passport as my identity. it isn’t me. my passport doesn’t determine my personality, it doesn’t influence my sense of humor, it doesn’t contribute to my likes or dislikes or hobbies or passions….or does it?
on more than one occasion others have assumed i have a passport from another country and i always wonder why i feel like i must defend my claim to have a passport that is this particular shade of green.(“i may have grown up around the world, but my heart and blood is nepali!”) what does this little booklet really say about me? why is it that having one country over other changes the way people perceive me?
what really is the worth of having paper and ink (and a photo) to offer me legitimacy in saying, ma Nepali hu. sometimes my mind has difficulty understanding life through official documents and systems. am i not who i am simply because i am? isn’t my being here enough evidence of my existence? the bureaucratic world thinks not.
and so my thoughts wander along… just how valuable is my passport? i ache to see the whole world and i know my passport is how i will venture to many places, yet, yet, yet, it’s having this passport that limits me so. there are few things in the world i dread as much as visa applications. i know just about every country i can travel to without a visa (or where i can get a visa on arrival) and it leaves much to envy of Canadians and Finns.
does this in turn mean my passport in worth less? (even though i probably end up paying far more in visa fees?) and if my passport is how i am identified, am i worth less? a quick look at the world, the rights of Nepali people, and the abuse they suffer would suggest that anyone with claim to this particular passport is not given the same value.
how tragic. how especially tragic because all it is is paper and ink, ink and paper. in and of itself, isn’t it actually worthless? unless, of course, you consider sentimentality. my old passports have all been hand written there was one where the guy made a mistake and used the edge of a blade to scratch out the error. true story. i used it for five years. my last passport shows a shy 18-year-old me (but i look like i’m 12), and the pages are filled with stamps, stickers, and print out showing my prized possession: the trips i have taken. i will be sorry to let this passport go.
and i will always feel guilty about the passport that will claim me for the next 10 years. i should have applied months ago. i made a few attempts. but one thing or another caused delay, and with less than 6 months validity, my father decided the time had come. he made a phone call to a friend, i sat in an office while everything was put together for me, drinking tea, making polite conversation and i was told to come back in 3 days. source force, you see.
outside people by the 100s scuttered around trying to fill out forms, get signatures, obtain slips, trying to ask for consideration, being confused, being ripped off, and spending hours, days, most likely weeks before getting their passport. but with one connection thereby passing as an elite in this particular instance, i was spared all that. i can’t even pretend to see any justice in it. i couldn’t look straight at young eager faces standing in line, those long long long lines.
i went this morning to pick up my passport, the date had been preponed by a signature, i was allowed to enter without a pass, and at the window i kindly stated “tara waha-le ahile aunu bhannu bhayeko thiyo?” because even though i don’t like it, i know referring to the person behind an important signature is worth more than the due process i should have underwent. her reply has left me with many questions, “yesto khalko case 3pm paachi matrai hunncha“. i fit into a category “this type of case”, a much nicer way of saying “those who have and use connections”. i am amused, using a method outside the system had caused the system to adapt-there is a system for those outside the system. considering i’d have a new passport in hand within 4 days of submitting my application, i felt no need to argue over a few hours. “hunnca, thank you, ma 3pm paachi aunnchu“.
and that’s what i’ll do. i’ll head back at 3, i will feel more guilt, and when i apply for my next visa, as i always do,i will feel worth slightly less. i will feel embarrassed at the way my nationality is treated, i will be angered by how humanity erodes because of documents, and i will look back and wonder if this moment of using a connection will be the line from which i can say i too was a part of corruption.
for a book so little, there’s so much packed into it. and for this hue of green, my struggle with a Nepali/cross cultural identity continues.