The visa broker

While I was in Calcutta, I was getting such joy that Chittagong was only an hour and a half away by plane. I was so eager to go there, so I went to try to get a visa.

Many, many stories I have heard about how difficult it is to get a visa to Bangladesh if you are not a big shot. But my taxi driver, who was from Bangladesh, said, "Those days are gone. You can easily go there now."

At the visa office there was a big line. Somebody came up to me and asked, "Do you need my help?"

I said, "Who are you?"

He said, "I am a broker. Here it will take you three days to get a visa. But if you give me 200 rupees, I will be able to get it for you by three o'clock this afternoon."

While I was talking to him, a young man standing nearby heard me mention Chittagong. He came up to me and said he also comes from Chittagong, so we started talking in our Chittagong dialect.

He said, "You can trust this broker. He is trustworthy."

So I gave the man my passport. Then he brought me to a place that was darker than the darkest to have my picture taken. It was so dirty that I wanted to take the picture with my eyes closed.

The broker was a Muslim. He said that he had never told a lie. He said that he had a big family and that the only way he could support them was by doing this kind of work. So we invoked Allah and all the Hindu gods and goddesses. At that moment, Hindus and Muslims were all one family.

At three o'clock I went to the place where I was supposed to meet him. He said, "I am sorry. You mentioned in your passport that you are a teacher. When you say that, everything becomes very complicated. So I could not get your visa. Tomorrow I will get it."

I said, "Please give me my passport."

He said, "I can't give it to you now. It is in the office, which is closed."

I scrutinised him inwardly and outwardly. Then I said, "Now bring my passport! Otherwise, I am going to the police station. I will keep my word and give you 200 rupees, but I want my passport."

He said, "Please go two blocks to a Punjabi coffee shop. I will come there with the passport."

I waited inside the coffee shop until I saw the Muslim standing outside a block away. He signalled for me to come to where he was standing. It seemed that we were in secret collusion. Either he was in trouble or I was in trouble.

He said, "Please write down that you have received the passport from me."

I said, "I have not received it yet, so why should I write down that I have?"

He said, "How can I be sure that you will give me the money? If I give you your passport and you don't give me the money, what can I do?"

This time I said, "I am ready to give you the money, but if you don't give me the passport immediately, I am going to the police!" Then from his pocket he took out the passport. Before I took the passport, I threw 200 rupees at him.

— 31 March 1983