Last night I popped a green pill that I should not have. I knew that pills do horrible things to me. But my throat was hurting mad and I thought why not. And that’s not the only why. It’s also true that I had checked on the net and it said Bormhexine makes you dizzy and hallucinate. I must say I gave in to temptation, but a lesson that I never learn is, drugs are not ice creams. They are mind fucks. And just like fucks, although it can be really nice sometimes (and this is what tempts you all the time) sometimes it can go horribly wrong. I pay my price of course. By dreaming of people in white canvas shoes, carrying multi-coloured plastic sacks and boarding a train to go to America.
Earlier in the day, we had gone to visit an organisation that facilitates safe migration. The place is called refugee processing centre. As we waited for the official to arrive to show us around, I see people strewn about. Some lying on hammocks, children playing around and some sitting around waiting. Some of them are behind the fence. Some outside, near to us. Some are peeping at us from their first floor window. They wear puans around their waist, have flat nose and slit eyes and tanakha on their faces. They remind me of home. I look around and see the vehicles parked in the parking lot. I recognise the ones that are used to carry the refugees. They look like prison vans with windows. The sitting arrangement is in two singular files along the windows. The door is at the back which can be latched from outside. I think - why they can’t have a normal bus? The one that has two doors on the side and that has rows or two or three seats? I tell myself, I am too much of a cynic. Or maybe a namby-pamby frooty loop. Will I be happy if the bus was coloured pink and flowery? But it was already a bright blue.
The very camp official arrives. He apologises for being late. He had to organize a funeral he says laughing. I am desperately looking for a laugh too. My throat hurts and it is bloody hot and sunny. I need medicine and laughter is the… (ok, I promise some they I will stop myself from using these over used stock phrases. But the temptation of repeatedly irritating choosey readers is too much to resist). I find none in his funeral description. It seems one of the refugees from the camp and he needs to find a spot to burry and a pastor to carry the rituals. He says all of this laughing. Like it is so funny he bends down every sentence.
Our tour of the processing centre begins. This is the ‘in processing centre’. This is where the refugees, who have been registered, come for their medical and interviews. They stay at the processing centre for 2-4 days and then they go back to the camp. At the camp they wait to hear from the host country. When the host country accepts, they are brought to the out processing centre. From there they depart to the host country. The place smells sterile. The people about have expressionless faces. The camp cannot stop laughing.
We proceed to the ‘out processing centre’. We are told we are lucky because we are getting to see the last group of refugees for this half of the year. Lucky?? My throat hurts, the sun is too much, I was born in a country whose money is 45 to a dollar, the government wants to build dams on my rivers and roads and railways which will turn more and more people into refugees. I rarely feel lucky!
The out processing centre reminds me of a halal chicken factory I saw once. A maulbi stands at the end of the conveyor belt which brings the live chicken into the slaughtering machine. As the chickens go into the machine one by one the maulbi keeps on repeating his prayers that makes the meat halal. And then you are very particular when you go to a restaurant and ask – is your meat halal?
The out processing centre looks like a factory building. I am told, it was made to be a factory building. It is being used as a refugee processing centre. A group of people are busy getting colourful plastic bags into a waiting bus. The bags are called what they call ‘Zim Bags’ in South Africa because they were seen first being used by Zimbabwen refugees. They should be called refugee bags because refugees from all over the world use them but that would be too impolite and some non-refugees use them too. The first thing I notice is that they are all wearing the same white canvas shoes. Then I notice that they are wearing pants and shirts and jackets and caps. Then I notice that they look cleaner and healthier than the people we met at the in processing centre which is about 300 metres away. ‘You can go and take photo with them. Also say bye bye to them. They are going to America.’ - We are told. I sit down on a chair. I am not feeling good at all. My throat hurts and it is too hot. From the corner of my eye, I see the white canvas shoes moving.
The camp has a partner now who takes us to the medical centre. Someone passes out. As she is carried away hurriedly to the centre, I have an incredible urge to join her. But my bad luck extends to my acting skills as well. So I take no chance. The medical centre smells strongly of disinfectant. They have quarantine room we are informed. There are posters that say do not chew betel nut. I am dying to have one as soon as I read the poster.
We move to the cultural demonstration centre. There are four or five small demo houses there. They have shoe racks, kitchens and toilets. The refugees learn how to use these things so that they do not have much problem when they reach America. It is perhaps a very realistic model too, considering how small their living arrangements will be.
From the centre we go to see the refugee camp. Camps where registered, unregistered, processed, unprocessed refugees live. We are told we can take photos from the road. But we cannot interact with anyone. They remind of villages back home. Just that they are packed too close to each other. Captivity requires controllable physical space. At the camp I wonder, if we can go to see how refugees live, why are the refugees not taken to real homes to show how people use stove and flush? Why demo units for them?
By now the sun has gotten into my head. The pain in the neck is unbearable too. I require medication and quick. I am taken to a pharmacy where a teenage girl gives me two strips of pills and some lozenge. I don’t feel assured. She looks too young and too quick. I am fearful of western medicine too. Especially of the ones that can be bought legally over the counter. I skip the pills and suck on the lozenge feeling a complete sucker.
At night I read up the medicine. I was right for not taking them. The doses prescribed by the quick teenager are far higher than the doses recommended by the pharma company. For once I trust a company more than a human being. But then, if the human being is a teenager, your choice is not so difficult. Talking of teenagers, there is one hidden inside me for sure. For as soon I read that one of the prescribed drug is used for entertainment, the teenager gets fidgety. It says it can cause dizziness and hallucination. I decide to pop one immediately. To the adult me I tell, it is because the throat hurts so much. To the teenager I do a high five.
As I start hallucinating, I know I have made a classic teenage mistake again. To do drugs, you must be careful of the space, people and frame of mind you are in. And a refugee processing centre is not exactly Lumbini jungle on a full moon night.
As I toss and turn about my bed, I see rows and rows of white canvas shoes. Moving, running, sometimes falling down. I reach home and feel the soothing presence of my mother, her face has tanakha and the houses are all too close to each other. Someone turns a shower on and I see a poster that says ‘Refugee, Immigrant, Labour’. I worry about the people who are leaving on a train. Do they know how far they are going? What kind of a life they will have? If they will ever be able to come back home? Or are they writing the beginning of another history? The history of another world, where there will be no boundaries, so there will be no refugees, no illegal immigrant. I remind myself never to do over the counter hallucinogenic ever again. They don’t make them as good as the pink crystals. At least the pick crystals would have added colours to the white canvas shoes. I need to sleep. I need to forget.
Every dream has a connection to something real you have seen. Every real you have seen has a connected emotion. These emotions create dreams. Sometimes they are real, sometimes imaginary and absurd.