I’ve done a few posts about delays at borders. Egypt. Italy. I’ve never blogged about US Immigration, but that would take even longer than the actual process.

According to the diary I kept assiduously at the time, this is how it used to be getting into India. Things may have changed a bit, but I somehow doubt it. Their power-crazed bureaucracy can be blamed squarely on us Brits, since it’s a carryover from the days of the Raj.

‘Immigration Control was mercifully swift and painless. Customs was not. It’s never made quite clear what you are expected to do, but trial and error reveal the approved system to be as follows. First you approach a man in white. He speaks excellent English, asks you for your Customs Card – filled out on the plane and promptly lost by half of our fellow adventurers – and signs it, wishing you a happy time in India. You then take your card to a man in blue. He speaks some English, and checks your card to see if it has been signed. If it has, he signs it again to show it has been signed. You then take the card to another man in grey, who speaks no English save the ability to shriek ‘Videocameravideocameravideocamera’, and who ransacks your handluggage while ignoring totally the smuggling opportunities afforded by your suitcase. Proceed back to the man in white and tell him you do not have a video camera, and he says good, go and see the man in grey. He again starts yelling blue murder, but by now you’ll have got the hang of it if you’re smart, and you just smile and say ‘No’. At this point he knows he’s beaten, and grudgingly signs the card to show it’s been signed by the other two. The card then must be taken to a man in khaki. He speaks no English, but compensates by having a very large machine gun. He checks the other three signatures on the card, and forces you to sign it again, the bit you originally signed having been torn off at some stage in the frenzy. At this point you get a huge grin, which is apparently both sympathetic and congratulatory, and lo! you’re home and dry.’

It was never clear to me why there should be such a fuss about a putative video camera. You could buy a knockoff one from a market stall for a few quid.