My plane just landed in India, and I’m standing in the passport control line, waiting to see one of those stately passport agents. Like many Indians, they can be the sweetest people on earth, but sometimes the power goes to their heads—turning us tourists into fifth graders facing the principal. Here’s a synopsis of every Indian passport interview I’ve ever had:
Agent: Your passport and landing card.
Me: Here you are, Sir. I hope everything’s in order.
Agent: That’s my job to decide. Why are you visiting India?
Me: Oh, the usual—see your beautiful country, study yoga.
Agent: Yoga? Can’t you study yoga in America?
Me: Well, I can, Sir, but this is the birthplace of the great yoga teachers.
Agent: Humph. On your landing card, you spelled your hotel’s street name incorrectly. Radhakrishansalai is one word, not three.
Me: (Sweating now) Last year they told me it was three words, ha, ha.
Agent: (Not laughing) You wrote the hotel phone number wrong too. “91” is the country code, not the city code, which is “44,” unless calling from a landline from another city, in which case you add “0” to the city code.
Me: You know, Sir, I think you just summed up why I get the hotel phone number wrong every year.
Agent: (Hands me a blank form) Refill the landing card properly, then get back in line.
Me: There’s two thousand people in that line! Can’t I just go to that little table over there, fill it out, then walk back up to you. Please, Sir, please!
Agent: (Looks me right in the eye, deadpan. Waits three seconds to milk the suspense, then smiles) You may do that.
Me: Oh, thank you, Sir, you’re the best!
Like I said, Indians can be the sweetest people in the world.