It was a historic moment; after all, it had been forty years since I had left India. I pulled out my camera and was one of the first off the plane. I wanted photos of my family as they disembarked. As the passengers came off the plane, we were told to queue up on the tarmac and wait for an escort into the terminal. Suddenly, a man appeared in front of me. Middle-aged, mustached, and wearing a light khaki uniform, He approached with such authority, I was sure he was an airport official but his manner was overtly aggressive and far from welcoming.
“What is your name?” He asked. “Your camera,” he gestured while reaching out for my camera. “Give me your camera. I want you to give me your camera!”
“What? Why do you want my camera?” I resisted, holding onto it tightly.
“Don’t you know that it is forbidden to take any photos at the airport? Now, give me your camera!”I was astounded.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I didn’t know that it was forbidden. I only took two photos of my family as they came off the plane. All the other photos in the camera were taken in other places, not here in India.”
He insisted that I hand it over, but I held on to it. We argued. Finally, realizing that I wasn’t going to give up my camera easily, he looked at me sternly and asked: “Your name, what is your name?” I reluctantly gave it to him. “I will be waiting for you inside the terminal.” Then he disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared.
I suddenly began shaking, then sobbing, completely out of character to any one who knows me. Why did I have to come back to India? What a stupid thing to have done. Why is it that I was the only one that was targeted? (At the time, it did not occur to me that perhaps it was because I was the only one to whip out my camera and start taking pictures at the airport.) Thank goodness I had my children around me. I held my daughter’s hand tightly as the line of people made its way into the terminal. Slowly, I stopped shaking, gathered myself, and prepared for a hard battle with the official – but he never came back.