The serpentine queue wound through the narrow lanes all the way up to the fields.
Shayla had been waiting her turn for the past few hours, cradling her daughter, while her four year old son squatted next to her. As she edged closer to the infamous counter, she could hear a repetition of the same words at regular intervals “Give me a good reason ….”
She braced herself. She prayed that unlike the day before, her wages wouldn’t get cut because of this tiresome exercise. It had been so devastating to be called back this morning for dearth of some papers.
Shayla had been hearing stories from others whose fate had been sealed. Some told her that the officer was ruthless. Others gossiped that he was just having fun, enjoying the power that the inked weapon in his hands wielded.
Shayla had not fully comprehended the sudden deluge of inspections and administrivia that had ruffled her sleepy village. She had been too preoccupied earning a few extra bucks, to pay heed to the news. Despite a tragic turn of events in her life, the self-respecting optimist strived to provide the best she could to her children.
Until the day before, she had seen no reason to worry about justifying her stay in this land she called her own.
Shayla’s mind juggled different time- frames from her life at reckless speed, similar to the way she multitasked daily as a recently widowed, working mother.
“Surely, stating that I was born on this land, walked my first steps in the water logged rice fields and speak the local language as my mother tongue would suffice?”
“Could I explain that this is the home I know, and I chanced upon the native land from which my grandfather migrated only in occasional conversations?”
“Perhaps,I could brag about the customs of this village, harvest celebrations that I revel in, the local delicacies I make or the ethnic dance challenges I win.”
“Maybe, I should narrate how mother conducted many safe births in the area irrespective of race or religion, when medical help couldn’t reach them.”
“How father would happily donate blood at camps, saying it would help someone somewhere in this country!”
“That time, when we had graciously hosted soldiers stranded because of the floods ,.. ah, that might pinch it.”
“Or…should I confess to eloping and marrying out of my community …could that save the day?”
Shayla panicked as a voice bellowed at her “Give me a good reason…. to give you citizenship of this country and not send you to the detention centre”
She stuttered “Sir, floods …claimed …. our papers..!”
As the officer shook his head disbelievingly and clutched the ominous stamp, the sound of the National Anthem from a nearby school enswathed them.
Shayla’s son instinctively stood in attention and saluted.
The amused officer relented, and sealed their fate favourably.
Shayla chuckled at the stroke of luck.
“And she would get half day wages too!”
Authors note: This is a work of fiction and not a political message. The intention was to explore the dilemmas of a second-generation or third generation migrant who has commingled in their place of existence to an extent that papers /records fail to justify.
Connect with Penmancy:
Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!