Every few weeks, Dhanajay Paranjpe goes to the Washington district headquarters of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, announces that he is an illegal alien, and waits to be deported.
He has been doing this for months now. He tried again yesterday. But he's still waiting.
"They wouldn't arrest me," he sighed after his latest attempt. "As soon as they would find out I wanted to be deported, they would ignore me."
This strikes Paranjpe -- a 32-year-old painter, PhD, Brahmin and beggar from India -- as singularly unjust. Every year, tens of thousands of illegal aliens who want to stay in the United States and work are rounded up in immigration raids and deported at government expense within days or hours after their arrest.
"They want to do the opposite of what people want," marveled Paranjpe.
INS District Director Kellogg Whittick, who was able to laugh about the irony of the situation, said that if Paranjpe had been picked up in a raid on a restaurant, for instance, he would probably be back home in India by now. The law would have required it.
"But he wasn't picked up," said Whittick. "He has a desire to be deported."
In the Boston immigration office, there is apparently a file on Paranjpe which was ordered a week ago and has yet to arrive. Without it, Whittick said, not much can be done. 'We'll move him very expeditiously . . . as soon as we get the file. But the system is kind of bogged down right now. It gets in the mail room and gets all tangled up there," Whittick said.
Why does Paranjpe want to be deported?
It is not so much that he lives in abject penury, sometimes gathering his food from garbage cans, slipping into the basement of a temporarily vacant Georgetown apartment house at night to sleep. It is a matter of culture.
As Paranjpe tells it, he was born -- or, rather, "I took this body"-- in India in 1946. He is a Brahmin, he said, a member of India's highest caste.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in telecommunications in India, he came to the University of California at Berkeley for graduate work in mathematics and economics in 1967 -- on a legal student via.
What he really wanted to do, however, was to paint and to build himself spiritually and intellectually, as he conceives it is the role of a Brahmin to do.
When his studies were finished and his visa expired in 1974, he became an illegal alien he said. But he wanted to stay as an artist -- and furthermore as an artist who did not humble himself by selling his work.
"It's just not in my blood to engage in servitude for wages," he said matter-of-factly.
Paranjpe started traveling around the country, periodically stopping at immigration offices in Seattle, San Francisco and Boston, trying to get a permit to stay.
"They would tell me 'Oh, no, not an artist. No way,'" Paranjpe said. "They would give me a list of professions -- nurses, laborers -- but artists? No."
"In Cambridge (Massachusetts) in 1978 I turned myself in (for deportation)," he said. "They said come back in two months. So I got to the trial and the judge said, 'Get a lawyer.' I don't want to get a lawyer for $1,000, I'm not going to sit in their smokefilled waiting rooms."
The case apparently was still unresolved when Paranjpe, who signs his work Mumbiram, came to Washington and started living in the parks and cellars of Georgetown last May. Since then he has been to the INS offices about five times trying to get sent back home.
A spokesman for the Indian embassy said that his government would probably pay the more than $650 fare for a destitute Indian tourist to return home, but in a case such as Paranjpe's the U.S. government would be expected to foot the bill. "I would think they would be glad to get rid of one of their illegal aliens," the spokesman said.
Paranjpe, meanwhile, continues to wait. He has been in this country a dozen years, he said, and that is long enough.
"When the sages (of India) used to do their penance in the mountains they used to do it for 12 years," he noted.
He dresses neatly and as cleanly as possible, bathing in the streams near Glen Echo and in Rock Creek Park. "I've become daring," he confided. "If the police come, I'll say. 'Take me.'"
He has printed up wanted posters bearing his picture and distributed them, complete with instructions that he be turned in to the immigration service.
"The most spiritually advanced person, he's supposed to beg. . .," said pparanjpe. "It's hard to be a Brahmin in this country because people say, 'Just a bum,' right?"