The little old lady at her stall just outside Lavender station let me take her picture. I was interested in doing so because she sold something quite unique — passport covers. “I’ll let you have a copy,” I had told her in Chinese to persuade her to agree.
After snapping her, I showed her what the picture looked like from the camera’s display.
“It’s not nice,” she said. I thought she was being humbly self-deprecating, so I started to compliment her looks. She got my drift, but said, “Not so. That’s not the problem.”
“So what’s wrong with the picture?”
“Behind me is an ahnehneh,” she finally said, using a perjorative term for Indians. Indeed, in the background was another vendor, an Indian man. In her opinion, his presence spoilt her picture.
So I took another, carefully shifting my position so that he wouldn’t be in the background.
But the man was a vendor too, and he must have stationed himself there for years, like her. How is it his race is still such a big deal to her? And what about the daily parade of people of all nationalities arriving and departing from the Immigration and Customs Authority, a stone’s throw from her stall. Over the years, many of them, Indians included, would have bought something from her, wouldn’t they?