The Rat of Brooklyn

I land at New York's John F Kennedy Airport. Soon after, I am greeted by the sound of typical New York, or should I say, JFK Airport—an irritated, middle aged lady barking orders for people to line up as per their visa/immigration/nationality status. A couple gets yelled at, "You're too slow with your passports!!" Gosh, I didn't know we were up for a High Noon draw to determine the fastest passport in the West!

She gives me an electrifying look. I get a jolt and nineteen hours of jetlag is evaporated in an instant as I await her next order: "20 push-ups! Right now!!"

Fortunately, I'm quick with my passport and my weekly practice of English on Humorously Yours convinces her that I am following signs clearly as I queue up in the right line.

Welcome to New York. I have been missing this for a long time thanks to all the political correctness with the TSA and US Immigration trying to put up a face of good customer service. It's just that the port of entry at any airport is really a fort of entry and with immigration officials specially chosen to somehow be of Vulcan origins and being devoid of facial muscles responsible for a smile.

But to be fair, this lady is no pure bred. Her thick accent tells me she herself is an immigrant in the land of immigrants and totally ticked off that more immigrants are coming into HER land where SHE came first with the right to turn around, raise her hand, and yell: "Stop! I'm the last person to be naturalised in America. Now you turn around and go back to where you came from, understand? Oh, and I voted for the first-time last year—I won't say who, but HE is my hero."

Immigration is a breeze. I love it when the stoic face of the officer breaks into a beam when I say I'm a comedian. And then the welcoming sound of the metal stamp of entry on my passport.

But the biggest test is to see if my Bangladeshi credit card works here or not. Because, the richest country in the world is still cheap enough to charge USD 6 to get a trolley for the suitcases, something that is free in just about every airport around the world.

It works. Yeah! And the euphoria continues as my bags are already making their rounds on the baggage carousel, a blitz compared to the Dhaka Airport counterpart.

I'm out through the green channel in a jiffy. But something is amiss. I still have the blue customs slip stating that I have not been in a farm, nor am I carrying any disease agents. Usually airports like JFK and LAX are abuzz with pickle experts among the customs agents. But none are here. Not only that, once I'm out through the greeting area threshold, the crowd is unusually thin.

It's clear to me right away as a scene from Inani Beach, Cox's Bazaar plays out in my mind. As I walk, the sea of orange disappears. They are the thousands of orange coloured crabs that cower into their holes as I, the lone brown, approach the beach. Here at JFK, the colours swap places as the lone (metaphorical) orange (Trump) approaches, the thousands of browns (immigrants) cower into their holes at Jackson Heights, Jamaica, Bronx and Brooklyn.

But one such brown cowers OUT from Brooklyn. He blows smoke out of his belly and thus blows his cover from being an aspirant of the American Dream to a being mutant of the ISIS Nightmare. In the process, he blows the chances of many a legitimate would be immigrant while landing a blow to the pride of his nation of origin which celebrates its 46th Victory Day less than a week from his heinous act. At one blow, he elevates the word Bangladesh to the 4th ranking on Twitter's hashtag trends, and of course, also adding "Ullah" to an envious number seven as Trump strikes another blow to the leniency of American immigration. Trumps rhetoric is no longer an act of blowing smoke nor has he been blowing hot and cold on this matter, as he blows away his opponents on immigration with yet another example to cite. This is an incident that for Bangladeshis, especially those in the US, will not blow over that quickly. It blows my mind to think what logic drives a man to leave his wife and three-month-old kid to bite the hand that feeds him. Sure, Jerusalem being the capital of Israel blows the stack of many, but this outcome?

He is in for a long haul in the can. But perhaps an alternative, cost effective punishment would be to just let him loose in Brooklyn where the large immigrant community of Bangladeshi origin would surely "take care of him" for messing it all up for all the hardworking Bangladeshis not only in New York, but also all over the US and visa aspirants at Madani Avenue.

Oh, and matchmakers, you may want to drop the "pick up" line "Here's a suitable groom—lives in America and has a Green Card." This "pick up" line is taken, as the FBI will now surely "pick up" a lot of other people…

1971, after Madison Square Garden, everyone chanted "Stop genocide in Bangladesh" which fell on deaf ears at the White House. And yet, Bangladesh proudly attains its victory on December 16 of that same year. Now, after the bomb attack at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, not too far from that very Madison Square Garden, many in America are chanting, "Add Bangladesh to the travel ban." The only difference, this time around, someone in the White House is VERY eager to follow through…

Naveed Mahbub is an engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA and CEO of IBM & Nokia Siemens Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and ABC Radio's Good Morning Bangladesh, the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club.

Email: [email protected] 

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