Friday 20 September 2013

Not again!!

Is there something wrong with my physical appearance, my hairstyle (what hair??) or my unfashionable clothes that I almost always get picked upon by British Indian Immigration Officers when I enter the portals of the UK Border Agency - this time - for the first time - at Birmingham Airport?  I'm not colour conscious but this is the sixth time or more,  that I have been given an unwarranted strong-arm treatment by a British Indian Immigration Officer.

Normally at Heathrow,  I would join the queue for British and EC Passports.  Some years ago, I was told I could take this channel as  I had a "Settled with Spouse" Visa  ( a Permanent Resident status).  That was a relief as the queue at the "Other Passports" was usually interminably long.  It's similar to Immigration at KLIA where PRs and Malaysian Nationals are accorded the same status.

But not this time.  As soon as we approached the queue, the British Indian "Immigration Officer" made a bee line for me ( and the spouse too) and smartly directed the both of us to the line for "Other Passports".  We protested (very, very mildly) in English - that Iain was a British Passport holder, a Bumiputera so to speak.  He was not an imported Brit!- that of course was not articulated or else accusations of racism would have hit the roof!

He also added that his wife ( the wife bit was strongly stressed) had a "Settled with Spouse" Visa. But no - she pointed us to the same channel.  We were exhausted after an almost 24 hour journey from KL and zombie-like we did what we were told.  We were not that groggy to remember that one must not question anyone in a Uniform - even a Security Guard at a Shopping Centre.

In the queue, a young Chinese lass next to us asked why we were in that particular channel - that we, especially the spouse who was certainly not an "Other" should go to the other shorter queue?  This young lass knocked some sense into our woozy heads and we approached the "Immigration Officer" again.  But no - she was adamant that we stay in the channel she had decided for us.

We reluctantly proceeded as directed but by this time the fuggy clouds in the head were beginning to clear and we sought this Immigration Lady again and explained our situation again.  In exasperation, she retorted that as she was not an immigration officer(????) - we should ask the Immigration officer at the Desk at the end of the queue.   Well, the lady (in impressive uniform) had certainly been taking Immigration matters into her own hands, at a strategic entry point.     And with great authority and forcefulness too!

So why didn't she tell us that earlier?  Why were other "Asians" or rather British Indians not re-directed or challenged when they funneled into the line for "British Passports"?   And even more puzzling, the spouse who looked as native English as 'steak and kidney pie'  was even instructed to not go to his country's channel!!  Where I'm concerned,  that's to be expected - an alien like me??!!!     But an elderly man who was clearly a Bumiputera??

So we took up the 'queue' that we deserved.  But that was not the end of the story.

This time, the 'as English as bacon butty' Officer began to grill me.  But he was not as bolshie and bad-tempered as the Lady British Indian "Immigration" Officer.  Rather, he had the panache of a culture that was used to regarding natives as non-persons.  My Abah described it as a culture that would "cut off the ground from under your feet and make you thank them for it" - he was describing what the British did to his Tanah Air - the Malay Peninsula.

My SWS (Settled with Spouse) visa was located in an old Passport together with other earlier Student Visas which had of course expired.  He flicked through the pages of the Passport several times - took a good look at my visage (what a thankless task) - and to soothe my nerves I try to imagine what he looked like when he's on the loo - in his Uniform.

He mentioned that my visa had 'expired' so I had to ask him to refer (ever so nicely - 'think of him on the loo'- I told myself) to my very official-looking  SWS Visa which granted me indefinite stay. But no, he wanted other evidence.     "There's nothing here,"he said, "that mentions √≠ndefinite stay."     Well, that was odd - there was, and the visa had worked for me for nearly thirty years already!   I flashed out another old passport which indicated the same SWS Visa - but not quite as attractive as the original visa which was given to me at the British High Commission in Singapore after we got hitched.  Another diligent perusal  and another vision (for me) of a uniformed man on a loo.

The spouse was by my side to provide significant (?) details like how long we've been married, how I've resided in this country for 30 years and that every few months we leave for Malaysia for medical treatment.
"So when was the last time you left?"  I was then asked.  After my answer, he added another query.  "Did you leave on your own?"

I reckoned I had had enough and sternly asserted,  "My husband has cancer. I never travel without him."

And hence the pearly gates opened!!

Not quite broken, we went to pick up our luggage.  We looked for a trolley - found some huddled in a row.  But sorry matey - you have to pay GBP1 for the privilege.    Typically, the system didn't work: one African lady made an official complaint about losing her change, and the spouse managed  to extract two trolleys for a quid.  How very, very British: they can't even do stinginess with style!

The weather was bright and sunny.  The air was cool and bracing.   The trees, full of autumn colour, were beginning to lose their leaves. I love this part of my husband's tanah air. 

 But this country is still  Yah, Boo, (and)  Sucks!!!


Anonymous said...

Never can Understand Why Malay Woman wants to marry Mat Salleh and then Grouch About Matsallehland even after living there for so long. How about enlightening us a bit about you met?

Or is it just a case of reaping what you sow.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Anon 4.54am.

1. A Muslim Malay sees marriage - when you marry, who you marry, if you get married - as "jodoh". It's not exactly what you plan in life. "Jodoh di tangan Tuhan". It seems that you have a problem when a "Malay" woman marries a Caucasian. Do you feel the same about the Chinese/Indian woman and the Malay/ Chinese/ Indian man who marries the mat salleh/ang mo/gora?

And thank you for emphasising my "Malay" persona. I may have married an Englishman and lived in his country for years - but I am no "orang putih celup". I keep my Passport, my language, my religion, my culture and all with the blessings of my mat salleh spouse.

After all there are enough 'mat salleh celup" in Malaysia/Singapore who have not even had the dubious status of marriage/partnership with Occidentals - or long term residence in the West.

I know it's a chevron (or two) on your sleeve if you can swan around with a white man or white woman as your partner. That is made blindingly clear by the media in Malaysia and Indonesia, with their obsession with 'pan-Pacific' actors and actresses. And in Korea and Taiwan and Japan and China, women and men are willing to part with their money and endure pain to get a nose, lip, eye and skin-whitening job to look like the mat/minah salleh. In Malaysia/Singapore, skin-whitening cream (for men and women)is as necessary as after-shave lotion and lipstick.

2. I don't 'grouch' about matsallehland any more or less than I "grouch" about anywhere else. But I do take umbrage at the way British bureaucrats treat 'Others' just like many Malaysians and other foreigners complain about the highhandedness of their authorities.

After all, there are 'Malaysians' who have lived in Malaysia for 2-3 generations and still moan about their 'treatment'. And they still have not bothered or found it necessary to use Bahasa - and they can get away with it too!! Try avoiding their national language in Matsallehland and you'll have a problem getting a job - even as a toilet-cleaner. But first you have to clear the Immigration hurdles at the Airports.

On this (your main grumble) you've missed the point of my posting.

3. You will not be very enlightened by the story of how we met - if that is what you mean by "about you met". But just to satisfy your curiosity - I was no 'mail-order bride' or catalogue brown woman seeking a lump of white rock sugar. My spouse was no woman-hunting tourist looking for a piece of brown sugar. Far, far from it.

Also, it is none of your business.

4. Finally, do I detect a hint of you wanting what I have reaped?

Unknown said...

Salam Dear Auntie,

Yup, understood your problem. It's the same problem with other countries, even Asian countries, the immigration are "strict". Sometimes I wonder if our Malaysian immigration are too "lenient" when I saw we ain't really getting the same "immigration treatment".

Dear Anon September 21, 2013 at 4:54 AM,

Please do not say that. Jodoh pertemuan di tangan Tuhan. I remember that Ustax Suhail Webb married a Malaysian, and now, I'm enjoying his show The Reflection at our local TV Al Hijrah.

anak si-hamid said...

Salam and thank you firdaus m.

Allah made us of many colours and cultures to live together in harmony.

Allah also wanted us to treat each other decently and to grant respect and dignity to all despite our differences.

But we in Southeast Asia are sometimes in denial about ourselves to the point where we erase our ways and become clones of others.

Yes, I do agree our authorities are too 'lenient' about entry into Malaysia, especially those from the richer countries.

But haven't the people and the authorities of The Semenanjung always been lenient about foreign entries? Or.... made and told to be lenient?

Today the Brits are fighting tooth and nail against immigration into their country - just what they heaped upon the Malay Peninsula. As we would say "Padan muka".

Anonymous said...

Anon 4.54am

You seem to have a problem about a couple who have been married for well over thirty years ! If she's writing about the UK Immigration experience...thats her business. Even if you're a Britisher ,(though I bet you're not) its still none of your business.

Somehow I sense a feeling of envy that here's this woman who has been in Maksaleh land for 30 years and yet you must have been pining your life away trying to stay there 'permanently'.

Mind your own business bro ( or are you a female who has failed to marry a Mat Salleh)....and live and let live.


Adait Aman said...

I too had a nasty experience at the hands of a Border control officer of Indian origin at Heathrow. Our entire family was held back and being questioned all because of an "minor anomaly" in my daughter's passport. Despite our explanations and showing proof that we were gainfully employed and happily residing in our country Malaysia, the Indian woman refuse to allow us in after more than an hour on suspicion of overstaying. We were later referred to a Caucasian Snr officer who promptly allowed us thru with an apology. So it looks like these pendatang are whiter than white.

But your posting made me recall a story of this old gentleman who is a respected corporate figure and educator who frequently gives lecture at some of the best institutions of higher learning. He was at Heathrow and was held back for questioning by a Border Control officer of Indian origin. The officer asked how long this gentleman intend to stay in the UK. To which, the frustrated and tired old man wittingly replied "Not as long as you".

Well it took officials from the Malaysian High Commission to extricate him on that day.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Mana,

Wow, you don't mince your words, do you?

But I think you've hit the nail on the head!

Must go for a cuppa or a teh tarik - to recover!!

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Adait Aman for a very 'enlightening' comment. There are far too many petty Napoleons at the British Border Agency and the irony is that the Bumiputera Brit Officers are more 'diplomatic' and less arrogant.

I love that tale of the gentleman who had to be extricated by the Malaysian High Commission. Bully for him - but don't tangle with men and women in uniform. They may look kinky but they don't know how to rock!
Over thirty years ago - coming into Heathrow - I was asked by the (at that time they were all native Brits) Officer if I was related to the young Chinese man that had just gone through his scrutiny.

I must have looked shocked and said, "Why should I?" ( It must be because many Brits, like the Duke of Edinburgh, regard all people with 'slit eyes' as the same.)

At least he had the decency to look sheepish and said . "Well, we have to be careful about who we let in...?

And I - being young and foolhardy (?) - retorted: "It's the sins of the fathers visiting upon the child, isn't it?"

I got away with it though.

Again, thank you for popping in. I cannot begin to imagine the ordeal for you and your family on that day.

Shall I say it again? Little Britain - Yah! Boo! Sucks!