The short, stout Indian policewoman grimaced as she looked down at my boarding pass. Ugly mustard-yellow curtains separated the two of us from the rest of Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. The woman's skin was dark, thick, and shiny, and the tight bun on her head had the dried out look of old hair oil. Her head was round, and her body seriously plump. She didn't look like the police type of woman. Who had brought her here anyway? She should've been buying vegetables somewhere in a bright yellow sari and thin gold bangles that clanged as her too-tight blouse developed sweat stains around her armpits. I was pretty sure her khakhi uniform had pungent sweat stains too. The uniform looked uncomfortable - it was bunching up in all the wrong places in the most unflattering of ways. Am I the only one that ever notices how obscene some government uniforms look on female employees?
"Are you a Muslim?" she suddenly questioned in a flat, restrained tone. She was still looking down at my boarding pass, not making eye contact. From what I could see, her face was tight and bore no real expression. Or maybe concealed another?
Oh God, why did I have to run into this policewoman of all personnel? Why did I have to come back to India? Everyone had warned me about these things. My stomach tightened, and I felt small and powerless. This was India, and the two of us were alone in the fast-becoming claustrophobic security compartment. She was the one with the uniform (ugly as it was) - what was she going to do? Why did I have to end up with the closeted Hindu right-winger government official? I hated being a Muslim in India already.
"Uh, yes, I am a Muslim...?"
The dark oily face looked up at me and startled me with the smile of a small child. "Me also, I am also a Muslim!" it squealed excitedly.
I remembered to breathe. "Masha Allah then!" I said, as she handed me back my boarding pass with an eagerly expectant gaze. She was still smiling, and I had begun to as well.