On a busy tourist street in Chongqing a group of around a dozen men selling flatbread have been dubbed by loyal customers as the “Flying Bread Clan”. The vendors, all around 30 years old, moved to China from India years ago to earn more money. Far from their motherland, they face daily problems including language barriers and fierce competition in the area.
The vendors say they all share the same belief, which is to use their perspiration and perseverance to overcome difficulties and to earn more money than they could in their home country in return for their family’s happiness.
Thirty-three-year-old Ram is the only vendor who can communicate with reporters in Mandarin. He said he left his country to work in Chongqing because it was more lucrative. He’s been making the Indian flatbread for around 10 years and is able to earn some 5,000 yuan per month in Chongqing, about 1,000 yuan more than his peers back home.
Five thousand yuan can be exchanged for about 30,000 rupees in India. Ram said that his friends back home working in the field can only earn half of that.
Every day, Ram and his colleagues make more than 100 roti canai, or Indian-influenced flatbreads. Occasionally, he’ll show off his one-handed toss, a unique skill which has become a specialty at the stand. The most exhausting part of the job is the long standing hours, Ram says. They work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, except on rainy days.
Ram gets up at 6:00 every morning. After washing himself, he prepares the booth and opens the door at 8:00 a.m. for a new day’s business.
Dinner time is the happiest hour for Ram, as he occasionally has a drink with his dish of fried meat. Unfortunately, his “happy hour” usually gets delayed by an influx of customers. After work, the seven workmates and roommates go back to their three-bedroom apartment that was rented by their boss.
Ram’s pay day is on 30th, and he usually asks for half-day leave then. Every pay day, he mails three-quarters of his salary back home and window shops around the area, until afternoon, when he goes back to eat hotpot with his colleagues.
“I only have three T-shirts for summer time,” he said. “I don’t smoke and I only spend money on drinks and hotpot fares that I split with my colleagues”
Ram said he used to be his family’s hope. His mother unexpectedly fell ill, which exhausted all of his family’s savings, so he had to drop out of school after his six months of university. That’s when he flew to Hong Kong to learn the skills of the trade from his uncle.
Ram’s helped the family pay off their debt and bought a pitch of land to build house. His daughter, five years old, brings him hope for the future. “Don’t be a handy person. It’s a difficult life,” he told reporters, “I promise that she won’t drop out from school because of money problems like me.”
By Lucy Liu
[Images via Chongqing Evening Daily ]