I always dread the border crossing between India and Nepal at Sonauli, near Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. The customs people can be very nasty and the immigration personnel may decide that you are not an Indian. Last time, I was wearing my jeans and dark goggles. The immigration officer wanted to see my ID just to make sure I was an Indian. My driving licence was no good. A copy of the passport is ok but still not very good. At last, I produced my trump card, the Senior Citizen Card issued by Indian Airlines. One look at it was enough to convince him that though my dress looked foreign, I was an Indian and he waved me away.

On my return trip, it began to rain heavily as I scampered to safety inside the ramshackle immigration office. One of the officers just glanced at me and demanded to know who I was. I took out my Senior Citizen Card but he refused to look at it. Instead, I was subjected to a short quizzing. He asked me where I came from. “Where is Bangalore?” he demanded. Next, he wanted to know who was Karnataka’s Chief Minister. I had no hesitation answering these simple questions. That was enough to convince that worthy I was an Indian from Bangalore.

But no such luck for another gentleman who flunked some questions about his home State of Gujarat. “Don’t you know the answers to these simple questions? How can I be sure you are from Gujarat?” the officer demanded. Finally, in sheer desperation, that person produced a letter from his bank that stated that he was an employee. Reluctantly, the official allowed him to enter India while muttering to himself about people who didn’t know simple things about their own State. I thanked my star that I passed his test with flying colours. Had he asked me some vague question, I might not have answered to his satisfaction.

Those intending to cross over to Nepal from Sonauli be better prepared! You just don’t know what questions that official may fire away at you. So, watch out for quiz programmes such as KBC and Mastermind to hone your general knowledge.

(The writer’s email: dbnvimi@gmail.com)

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