Disclaimer: Yes, this actually happened. No, I’m not writing from jail and my sister and I are definitely NOT TWINS. I’m choosing anonymity because my mother fears I’ll be in trouble with the CIA if I don’t LOL. If you actually know who I am (this story has been like a very cool party trick), please refrain from tagging me. I’M SERIOUS. Don’t do it.
It’s important to note that while this story is really funny and quite UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE in retrospection, at that time “meri phatti hui vi thi” would be an understatement. I will recount whatever happened in grotesque detail in order to provide context but more importantly, to prove that I’m not JUST a bimbo who traveled internationally on her sister’s passport by mistake. Although, that’s EXACTLY who I am.
Picture this: It’s late at night, I’m packing some last minute things for my early morning flight. Rubber sandals get tossed out because of comfy hotel slippers. Swimsuit makes the cut, if we have time. I grab the passport from my parents drawer. Set my glasses on the side table which I can wear in the morning. Head to bed.
Come morning, I’m sleepy and groggy, I get changed, get my luggage together and call a Careem. All under thirty minutes. Self five. I’m smack on schedule. There’s no traffic so I make it to the airport in fifteen minutes. Fantastic. Once I’m inside the airport, it dawns on me that my glasses are still on my bedside table.
Knowing that I couldn’t survive the next five days without my glasses and missing my prescription, I call my driver to bring them to me. Now we’re on a time crunch. In the meanwhile, I get my boarding pass and decide to get immigration out of the way. There’s no time to snapchat my signature travel selfie. I’m basically on the phone, frantic. My driver brings over the glasses just when the flight is being announced. Phew. That was close.
Once I’m safely in the airplane, I finally relax. Traveling first class for the first time, I’m in vacation mode. My colleague and friend joins me for the trip and we make some small talk before retreating to being fed gourmet meals and watching movies.
We land in Dubai soon enough and there’s someone waiting to escort us through immigration. “Hmmm, I could get used to this lifestyle”, I think to myself.
While at immigration, my friend is through fast and the officer is taking unusually long to process me. I casually ask him if everything’s okay and he makes an equally casual comment, “the passport and visa number don’t match” before shrugging it off and handing me my stamped passport.
I ask my friend whether he thought it was weird and he responds, “tumhara naya aur purana passport saath mein laga hua hai tou shayed woh purana dekh raha ho“. Makes sense, I think, tucking the passport in my bag.
We arrive at our hotel and they have us wait in the lobby until our rooms are ready. During this time, I take out the passport just because I finally had time to Snapchat and to my horror, it turned to be my sister’s.
I’m staring at it in disbelief for good fifteen seconds before nudging my friend, “dude, this is my sister’s passport”
“WHAT?”, he’s dumbfounded and exclaims his signature, “OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK”
Oh fuck, indeed. What do I do what do I do? These Arabs are fucking nuts. They’ll send me to jail. Oh fuck, I’m gonna be in an orange suit. In the same reverie I text my sister, “FUCK ME, I CAME TO DUBAI ON YOUR PASSPORT!”
She calls me and now we’re both FREAKING OUT. Classic.
Then, as much as I dread this, I call my dad. Seeing how big of a shit-storm this was, my dad was surprisingly cool and assured me he’ll try to figure something out. The absolutely precious thing about my father is that he understands when the other person is extra upset and tries to diffuse the situation instead of adding insult to injury. I’m sure his inner monologue must include a lot of, “how dumb is my first born, really?”
Soon, our family WhatsApp group starts buzzing with messages as my mom and brother decide to weigh in on the situation.
Now understand that I travel internationally quite often and never have I been this DUMB. Honestly, I felt like such an idiot. Had I noticed the discrepancy earlier, I would’ve missed my flight. Or even turned myself in at Dubai immigration. But I didn’t. Now the whole business trip is clouded by my misfortune. I’m popping pain killers right, left and centre just to survive.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, my mother is found on the jaaye namaz and my nani is asking for wazeefas from anyone remotely religious. Sadkas are being given in my name and manats for my safe return. Bless their hearts.
At this point, there are a few exit plans being explored and shot down:
1. My passport is sent over to Dubai but according to my dad, such documents are to be declared and well, if that happens, what am I doing in the country without my passport? Also, my own passport will not have the entry stamp. How did I get to Dubai? JAIL
2. I should travel by PIA on my way back instead of the *first class luxury airline* because PIA mein ghapla kerna shayed asaan ho but immigration still remains a barrier. JAIL
3. I exit on my sister’s passport that I’ve traveled to Dubai on. JAIL?!?!?!
Ultimately, it is decided that I have to leave on my sister’s passport because we have to close the loop for both her and I to not be in trouble. What was she doing out of Dubai without an exit stamp on her passport? What was I doing in Dubai without an entry stamp? It was common sense, really.
Except, I’m a terrible liar and I have the worst poker face.
While coming to Dubai, I was oblivious to my incoming doom. Now it was as clear as day.
(Meanwhile on WhatsApp)
The rest of my time flies in a jiffy. My friend tries his best to reassure me. My dad has made a few calls and “lined up some people to help if things go south”. To ensure my safe return, he flies to Dubai to see me through the finish line. The day of my return arrives and I wake up with an urge to throw up multiple times.
I’m terrified for myself.
I take a cab to the airport with my colleague and see my father. A wave of relief goes through my body. My dad couldn’t be more of a superhero even if he wore a cape. We hug, I hold back tears. He tells me to calm down and to head on over and he’ll wait until I’m through to catch his flight back. This man had just come for a few hours to make sure I’m okay. God, I love this man.
Pushing our luggage to the airline counter, my friend and I hand our tickets to the lovely lady. She asks for our passports and we exchange a knowing look between ourselves before obliging. She glances it over and asks me, “your passport says X and your ticket says Y name, what’s your name?”. I haven’t rehearsed this. I just mumble, “yeah they’re both my names”. And she BUYS it. You know, Arabs have long names, too.
Now it’s time to walk to the immigration desk. The person seems chill, he’s exchanging jokes with his friends. Maybe he’ll be kind to me. My friend goes first. He’s through in less than a minute. I look behind me to see my dad nod. Okay, time to test my luck. I walk towards the happy-go-lucky Arab and hand him my passport.
He’s taking longer than usual. My heart is beating out of my chest.
“Show me your visa please”, he says.
I hand him my phone with a copy of the e-visa. He looks at it, looks at me. Starts typing something and then says, “Please go to the office over there”
OH FUCK. I’m fucking screwed. This is how it ends. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.
I tell my friend they’ve asked me to the office. We head over to the benches outside and I quickly give my dad a call.
“Unhon ne mujhey office bula lia hai”
“Bus aisay act karo ke you don’t even know. This is the only way. Pretend that you don’t know it’s not your passport”
My friend and I wait there until another immigration officer arrives. He asks me to follow him in. Haye, mera dil bahir na aajaye.
I step into an office with roughly ten tables and chairs equipped with computer systems, spacious but completely empty. He sits himself down on one end and asks me to be seated. Haye mera dil. He starts typing something. I’m losing my mind in what seems like hours. He has my passport. Am I going to go to jail? Am I going to be deported and put on a “no-fly” list? Will I ever see my family again? What will the headlines on Geo News say? Fuck. If jails looks like what we see on Orange Is The New Black, I’m never gonna survive. I’m too young to go to jail, I haven’t accomplished anything. Haye mera dil.
And as I do in any and all awkward situations, I try to lighten the mood with a joke.
“Is everything okay? I’ve never been sent inside here.” *awkward smile*
He looks at me, holds my gaze and says my name with a pause that meant it was a question.
I respond with, “Yes…?”
Hands me my stamped passport and says, “have a nice flight back home”.
WHAT? Just like that? No orange suit, no “You’re lying, this isn’t your passport, this isn’t even your face”? I walked out of the immigration office scut free, to the joy and confusion of everyone else. The rest of the plane ride back home was fairly uneventful. But I got home to hugs and kisses and more nafals. My dad reckons I was let go because of my travel history – it so happens that my sister and I took a trip to Dubai a few months back. Also, with such a breach of security, the whole immigration team tends to get sacked which is roughly 15-20 people and well, the Arabs possibly saved their skins in the process.
I still can’t believe this happened.
Whenever I tell the story, I’m mostly met with “what the actual fuck” as a response. And while as this was happening meri phatti hui thi, I have to admit it’s a story I’ll be telling my grandchildren one day.
Cover Image via: brecorder.com