How many of you have heard about the movie Maria full of Grace… the Colombian film about a pregnant girl Maria, who is a victim of the classic drug smuggling from Latin America you oh so often hear about. Stricken by poverty and fired from her miserable paying job, with a total lack of perspective but romantic in wanting to support her family, she decides to accept the offer to work as a drug mule, flying to USA with sixty-two pellets of cocaine in her stomach. Yeah! She swallows every one of them, without realising the consequences of the drugs on her pregnancy, on US immigration, on the methodology of extracting the drugs or the possible murder that it can result in if she fails to do so. The movie is stark, realistic, painful with absolutely no feel good elements. That’s why there are brutal portions of the movie that shake you up so badly that drug is not a word you would want in your dictionary.
When I was in Bolivia, I was told that I resemble Maria. Maybe something about being with a bunch of Colombians… I looked Colombian enough. I did not give it much thought then. (But, sure as hell it was a compliment.. she is a South american beauty)
Anyway, its almost half a year since I got back from the trip and I saw a pirated DVD of this movie lying around in someones place. Reminded me of the comparison. And, then it reminded me of something else…… My Maria experience…
The first time Maria steps into the United States, pregnant, with drugs in her stomach, clutching her bag and looking terrified of the security check, you cannot help but feel the fear yourself. As one of the other mules is being led away by the police after an X-Ray scan, which clearly reveals the drugs, you can’t help but think about the dilemma she is in. But, pregnancy would have never had its advantages as much as this moment. Maria escapes the X-Ray and hence, manages to cross immigration purely by luck. However, those few minutes scare the shit out of anyone watching the movie, feeling Maria’s pain… But, she deals with it oh so beautifully…. with sheer grace indeed.
Well… cut to March 2009, Atlanta airport, early morning. Delta Airlines from Sao Paulo lands and I walked out of flight, chatting up this 17 year old Brazilian exchange student, most thrilled about going to Alabama or Arizona for his semester abroad. Speaking only Portuguese, this kid sported wavy long hair and carried just a dirty backpack, like me. In the entire hall full of passengers, 2 people were picked by the African American police crew (I’m not a racist, but this detail just makes the whole setting more visual) and who does that happen to be – Brazilian boy and me. I thought it was routine check that they put backpackers through but I was being too kind to the Americans. Little did I know what I was going to be put through. Without getting into too much detail, let me just say, I was strip searched, put through an X-ray, interrogated in a room about the possibility of carrying drugs, running away from India, having a 17 year old brazilian boyfriend in addition to the standard who are you visiting, what do they do, how do you know them, how much do they earn, when do you plan to go back, do you have a job, do you have a husband, why did you leave him for such a long time, how come you speak Portuguese, why do you train in a martial art, why did you talk to a stranger in an airplane….. You get the drift! They even had a audacity to remove everything out of my backpack and unfortunately landed up finding 3 brazilian porn magazines that I was carrying for my American friend (it was a dare, trust me). Other than that, they just found wierd looking instruments tucked away in nooks and corners of my bag and suspiciously shook it to see if it had pellets or something. My caxixi, an insrument that looks conical with coffee seeds in it and the little christmas light kind of samba ball with mustard like seeds in it may have gotten me arrested. Anyway, I had to shake them about in the three beats to convince them it was a Samba instrument. I even hummed a bit. Eventually, after 1.5 hours and wasting my beautiful morning, the fat guard decided to let me go. But, about 10 minutes before he decided that, I was totally mind F***ed and I decided to mess with him. So, I remember this dialogue very clearly.
Guard – Why Brazil for so long?
Me – Because I love coffee and the country has the best coffee in the world in addition to lovely people and cultural richness. And…… its 6 45 am, about an hour and a half since my flight landed and my friends are waiting for me hopefully. If you want to mess with me this early in the morning, a cup of coffee would have been nice.
Ice broken finally. Freak.
Guard – Hahahahahha (artificial laugh) Girl with a sense of humour eh. You can pack up your stuff and get your passport from the other counter. And that’s the way to the MARTA station. Good day!
Me – Thanks! You have a good day too (What I really wanted to say……. let me save it)
I left the airport indignant, having been treated so miserably when I knew I had done nothing wrong. I left with rage. I wanted to punch the guard before leaving, even if it meant getting deported to India that minute, with cancellation of my US visa. I remembered the painful day my mother missed her flight from Neward to Austin when the guards in the airport thought that her tongue cleaner was a weapon. I’d laughed at her then. Now, I know what certified idiots some of those Americans are. And I’m not surprised at all.
I’m just angry. and I sure as hell hope they don’t try that with me again.