A Midwestern grin and a poem about the TSA. Amit Majmudar is clearly no ABCD

by Rashmee

Posted on December 12, 2016



abcdReading Amit Majmudar’s poem ‘T.S.A.’, named after that unwieldy monster post-9/11 organisation, America’s Transportation Security Administration, I kept looking for traces of the A.B.C.D. Which is to say that piteous creature in between worlds called the American Born Confused Desi. A “desi” is a South Asian and the rest is self-explanatory.

But Dr Majumdar’s poem (he’s a radiologist and specializes in nuclear medicine) had no trace of A.B.C.D. Check it out for yourself below. Instead, it simply, almost clinically, considered the problem with being brown in a post-9/11 world. He is dispassionate in his diagnosis:

Off with the wristwatch, the Reeboks, the belt.

             My laptop’s in a bin.

I dig out the keys from my jeans and do

             my best Midwestern grin.

At O’Hare, at Atlanta, at Dallas/Fort Worth,

             it happens every trip,

at LaGuardia, Logan, and Washington Dulles,

             the customary strip

is never enough for  a young brown male

             whose name comes up at random.

Majmudar didn’t seem angst-ridden, just focused on a diagnostic zeal to explore problems of perceived and real identities, communities and the need for public fair play. Perhaps, he isn’t an A.B.C. at all, I thought? Not American-born. And not confused. Nowhere could I find a reference to his having been born in America. It’s just his growing up “in the Cleveland area” that’s constantly mentioned.

The other bit that made me think he was unlikely to be ‘C’ (confused) is Majmudar’s record as Ohio’s first poet laureate. In an interview he once explained his credo as follows: “My credo comes from Eliot quoting the Upanishads in his notes to ‘What the Thunder Said’: Da, dayadhvam, damyata. Give, sympathize, control. That is both the art of life and the art of poetry. It seems fitting to me that they should be identical.”

 

T.S.A.

Off with the wristwatch, the Reeboks, the belt.

             My laptop’s in a bin.

I dig out the keys from my jeans and do

             my best Midwestern grin.

At O’Hare, at Atlanta, at Dallas/Fort Worth,

             it happens every trip,

at LaGuardia, Logan, and Washington Dulles,

             the customary strip

is never enough for  a young brown male

             whose name comes up at random.

Lest the randomness of it be doubted, observe

             how Myrtle’s searched in tandem,

how Doris’s six-pack of Boost has been seized

             and Ethel gets the wand.

How polite of the screeners to sham paranoia

             when what they really want

is to pick out the swarthiest, scruffiest of us

             and pat us top to toe,

my fellow Ahmeds and my alien Alis,

             Mohammed alias Mo—

my buddies from med school, my doubles partners,

             my dark unshaven brothers

whose names overlap with the crazies and God fiends,

             ourselves the goateed other.

 

 

 


Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK

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