He isn’t in the park any more. Not on the streets. He’s gone. I met him a few times – each time without an ‘afspraak’ or, in other words, an appointment.
The climate I believe is warm. Too warm for September. Too hot for a man alike him who paid some thousand Euros for a visa in Portugal, and lived in Amsterdam. He said, for several years he was a cleaner at McDonalds and other restaurants, and then he left suddenly, when the climate changed. Or not so suddenly. More like – finally. He said he didn’t really want to go.
I think he took the boat to England, where the climate is better he said. He has friends who will get him a job. Some thousand Euros to get him the passage on that Portugese visa. Or did he really, really take that long flight back to Delhi? I can’t say but I doubt it.
It was he who told me about the others, like him in the clothes stalls in the Dapper market. Day after day their heads bobbing up from Janpath – like wares, or between the cacophony of sliding hangers. Talking to each other in unmistakable Punjabi. Are they really calling Delhi on their mobile phones? They don’t earn more than 50 or 60 Euros a day (divided by three), he told me. You know, I believe him. He looks like he doesn’t like to lie, if possible. Except to get a Portugese paper. For which he pays. Pays hard.
I almost don’t believe it when I hear the Dutch amidst the colours and sliding hangers. Prijs, maat, alsjeblieft, dank je wel, paars, groen, witte, zwart, katoen, katoen, katoen….
Alles vor 5 Euro, a card says. I do the math – three hundred rupees for warm cotton colours in this grey place. It’s what I would pay in Delhi for that – maybe more.
Anil – that was his name, went away when the climate got too hot. He told me McDonalds had hired him to clean from eleven at night. He left before five in the morning. Before the inspectors came looking for him. But now, he says the climate has changed. The inspectors could come around any time, even at two in the morning, and he doesn’t have a job anymore. They’ve come around to the Dapper market too. I’ve seen one myself. And the men behind the hangars laughing and making jokes in Punjabi in his presence. For the pleasure of making 50 Euro a day (divided by three), a very XXXL inspector visits, who doesn’t care if they’ve paid up to the market board. It’s the other papers he wants to see, as the climate gets hotter.
Anil said also that an agent could fix him up with a Dutch lady for twenty thousand Euros. His sister, to whom he sends his collected Euros in Delhi said bas, it’s enough. Just come home. But he didn’t. I know because he was in the park telling me. The first time I met him, I was passing by the park bench on which he sat. He called out in Hindi – are you Indian? He got up as I turned to look. He was never at the same spot in the park, and mostly alone. Once he was with a bunch of men, like him. As I approached with my twins, he came up and took one in his arms. Beta…son, he said with the kind of familiarity that I know so well. ‘How red his cheeks are’. Then his phone rang and he walked away. I hoped it was a job as I wheeled my children in their pram.
It’s too warm for September, they say.