The form came in triplicate sets,
Asking same questions of a quarter life.
‘Born citizen’ or ‘forced citizen’ it asked,
Was born a citizen but forced a slave I muttered.

In the queue a guy with a vermillion mark jostled me,
‘Terrorist’ he shouted,
As gazes sharpened aiming at me,
‘Keep calm’ I resolved, as my palms folded to restraint.
He had fled the vale, packing his hate along.
I had sneaked the vale, scrambling my hopes along.

The office receipt took a rest in my purse,
As months went passé it refused to awake,
Its folds became creases of indelible marks.
Then one autumn a plainclothes knocked,
Asking for the one in that triplicate form,
‘The pic is not you, my trained eyes can see’
He declared me an alien to my own image.
A few days later I resembled the pic,
When a wad of notes his eyesight cured.

It took nine months and a pair of shoes,
For the triplicate to label the slave a citizen.
Here I was, born again,
A picture attested in a passport book.

But my friend the ‘unlucky simpleton’,
For his citizen rebirth was not to be,
The plainclothes put his file in an unmarked shelf,
‘His cousin was a rebel’ the noting wrote,
‘Hence a threat to be contained in confines of home’
A ‘cousin’ who had fled before his birth,
Became the scale to measure his worth!

The immigration officer paused at me,
Inspecting my passport like proof of a heist,
In its empty pages he imagined my fate,
Then looked at the pic conjuring a prize,
‘Potential collateral damage or potential rebel?’
‘What country are you from?’
‘I assume you can read, you idiot!’ I thought
‘What country are you from?’ he repeated,
I could see through his bait, his wicked game.
A rebel has no country that he calls his own,
His nation lies scattered behind garrison fatigues.
‘Was born in Srinagar’ I jumped his trap.
‘Srinagar is not a country’ the fox retorted,
‘The Passport is an Indian, Sir’ I replied.

Holding me to an atrocious wait,
He called someone to decrypt my lines,
‘We need to ask you some more questions’
The wait was long and the questions cold.
The flight had left without the rebels wings,
My baggage offloaded with torn air tags.
Like the ragged tags of a citizen slave.