I would feel echoes of my predicament more than thirty years later, when President Obama’s chief of the staff, Rahm Emanuel returned to Chicago to run for its mayor. His opponents immediately made a big fuss over the residency and the physical presence requirements. Questioning, whether he was eligible to run for the office. A court case ensued. In the end, he was declared eligible to run and is now the mayor of Chicago. I wasn’t so lucky. . Nothing I could do.

But I am not the one to give up that easily. However rigid the laws, I believe that there is always an exception to every rule. So a little over a year later, I wrote a detailed two and a half page letter to the newly elected and new in the office President Jimmy Carter.  Requesting that considering the unusual circumstances of my case, the usual physical presence requirement be waived and I be allowed to immediately re-apply for the citizenship.  While writing to the President, I subconsciously must have thought that if anybody, he would be sympathetic also to the fact that I worked for Playboy. It was his Playboy Interview as then candidate Carter, in the magazine’s November 1976 issue, that caused an incredible amount of stir and a media blitz across the country.  Not because anything he said of his politics, but what he said at the tail end of the interview, as if reflecting on something: I have looked on a lot of women with lust. I have committed adultery in my heart many times.

I doubt it if the President ever read my letter, but it certainly triggered a flurry of communication from Washington, DC to Los Angeles. The first response I received was from the INS commissioner in DC, followed by letters from Los Angeles, acting director, assistant district director and eventually the district director himself, granting me a face-to-face interview with the INS attorney to further discuss(my) naturalization, resulting into a 22 page transcript of our interview.  In the end, I was still denied immediate citizenship in a 5 page summary signed by the district director.

As the officer in Los Angeles had said, the years flew by faster than I would have thought. In the meanwhile, Playboy has brought me to their corporate offices in Chicago. I am at the immigration office, sitting across from a young INS officer –  once again all prepared to flaunt my knowledge of the American History and its Constitution. Its August 12, 1980. Waiting outside are Carolyn and my friend Denise, they are to be my witnesses, and crawling on their laps and all over the aisles is our barely 18 months old daughter Anjuli. They are  waiting eagerly and anxiously for me to come out and are now getting antsy and beginning to feel nervous at why it was taking so long behind the closed doors, while other doors opened and closed every few minutes with soon to become citizens coming out with big smiles on their faces.

Playboy!  That is why. My citizenship file quickly opened and closed, the examining officer thumps it on his desk. If not exactly in the same words and the sequence, this is how our citizenship interview unfolds:

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