Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Oh the SSSS stamp !

Ever wondered you see a strip scene on Television is not as exciting as it is when seen in real life say a public place? That is how the situation is these days when a South Asian flies to any developed country particularly to the UK. When I transited through London from the USA this year on April 06th 2007, the lady with sweet smiles at the customer counter issued me a ticket and had a quick look at me to check if I was a browny, asian accent, long hairs, goatie and quickly checked on her database for "Terrorist- look-alikes" and viola we got a match ! She then stamps SSSS - Selected for Secondary Security Screening. How much I love this stamp?

This invariably happens to all the flights bound UK coz they fear psychologically the South Asians and every Asian traveling in the British Airways would have a story to say ! Now what does SSSS stand for and why am I losing my sleep over it? This means you are a suspect, a potential terrorist, a person with suicidal tendencies (like I have been trying one since age 7!), who could take the whole plane down in a blaze of glory. A few passengers are randomly hand picked for this effort and I was the chosen one this time.

What follows is a completely dehumanising experience. One officer takes away your passport, another your hand baggage, the third looks at your personal belongings and the fourth takes you with him. A special machine that you pass through blows air from head to toe, in search of banned material. Your belt, shoes, wallet, chains, laptop are removed and tested for unwanted material. Even a beep would subject you to further humiliation. Then a chemical is anointed and blotched on litmus paper and the guy slowly opens the hand bag. The fear that the bag would blow up anytime. Then the guy holds the litmus paper in the corner for a while and the color remains unchanged would only give him positive vibes to proceed further more on each and every other stuff. Then finally the most awaited - public strip search. This happens in front of every other passenger while others pass by giving suspicious/sympathetic glances. Your bags are zipped out and returned with everything hanging out. My only companions fellow Asian travelers.

By the time the ordeal is over, I feel my bile rising. I'm returning home after a long and successful trip, but the smile is gone. My feet carried my body and pride to an isolated place. I felt violated, mutilated and molested. As I wear my belt, tuck my shirt in and wear the shoes, I feel like a streetwalker, being bedded against my will. These are the new-age security measures but I look at them with increasing suspicion. Why only the Asians, all the time? I understand where the fear is . Thanks to the same complexioned terrorists who are doing no good to the people here. Welcome to the New Age Air Travel Procedures !

Come to talk about security paranoia, there were very many other close to harassment issues and I am not really against them primarily because that is the only way they can check 'who is who' but make the check a common thing for all the people that travel. Don't hold Asians alone and suggest married Indian Women to either remove their (Thalli) Magal Sutra else a personal check and that is no way to treat a legal travel passenger. Perhaps that is one reason why I don't feel much interested these days thinking about traveling to developed country. Not that I was striped every time but my pride is much above than everything. We would be tolerant to this strip search until there is some peace around and people don't walk around with guns or bombs. That is the present state of the world these days. Imagine doing this to a BLACK AMERICAN? He/She would bring the whole world down.

Since Asians - Mostly seem to be docile and law abiding we take it by the chin but the damage is already been done by the same colored terrorists. We have to go through this procedure and should you ever be "Hand picked" for a glorious procedure like this, remember the saying - "When rape is inevitable, lay back and enjoy".

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