The officer at the emigration counter was young, and talkative.
As I stood in the queue waiting for my turn, I could see that he was making small talk with most passengers.
Some passengers replied to him smiling. Some grimaced. Some looked the other way as he spoke.
Was he cross-questioning them? Or just making small talk?
It was my turn.
"Are you Indian?" the officer asked as he trained his eyes on me. He was holding my Indian passport.
"Shuddh Bhartiya!*" I replied, matter of factly.
"But you look like a foreigner," he insisted.
Is it my beard that is bringing this line of questioning, I wondered. Kept quiet.
"What do you do?" he asked
"I'm a writer," I said.
"Written a book?" he asked.
"Not yet. Perhaps when I have a few grey hair in my beard," I said to him, getting bolder.
"Yeah, then your writing will have more weight." He seemed to get it.
"Absolutely," I said.
"Write a book like Satanic Verses. You know, the one Salman Rushdie wrote," he said with a sly smile as his hand reached for the exit stamp to be put on my passport.
"I'll write a refutation to it," I said.
Thap. Thap. He stamped my passport and got ready to talk to the next passenger leaving India.
I moved on to the boarding gate, taking my country's parting memory with me.
A bitter one.
[*'Shudh Bhartiya' means pure Indian in Hindi, India's national language]