|Mahendra and Aafke|
"Thank you for offering your services but I do not need a taxi," I kept answering. "I just walk to the traffic light to buy a SIM card."
It was a wide avenue that I walked from the gate, with high, thick trees on the left. There was little traffic. A man approached me and asked modestly if I might need a taxi. "Not now," I said, "but tomorrow. My wife and I are still on the cruise ship for another night and tomorrow morning we will go to our hotel and have an appointment somewhere in the city." " I can take you anywhere for $ 15 a day," he said. I looked at him a bit better, he looked back quietly. "Okay," I said, "can you be at the gate at 8 o'clock in the morning, then my wife and I will come with our suitcases?"
The next morning he walked towards us calmly and confidently. When we said goodbye to each other a week later at the airport, both Mahendra, Aafke and I had tears in our eyes.
At the junction with the traffic light there was an open shop on the other side, actually more like a wide, open booth, like the one where Aafke and I bought a SIM card in Shanghai, with a man who constantly received smartphones that customers gave to him for a number of hours. I could only buy a SIM card with him if I had a passport photo, because forms had to be filled in with a photograph of me stuck to it. He told me where I could have a passport photo taken in the neighbourhood.
I came to a photo shop, a pipe lettuce, with staff in the front, light section and in the back, in the dark, the boss. A calm, friendly and confident man, with whom I soon started talking about black and white photography, the development of negatives, the emergence of the image in developer, the type of paper that was our favorite - he sepia, I Record Rapid from Agfa - and the film rolls from initially 8 and later 36 photos. I still have a few rolls in my closet and also photo paper, developer, fixer and tongs to pick up the wet, developed photo paper and first put it in a container with fixer and then rinse it in a bucket. But the conversation about those details was not until after he had taken off his pants and shirt and suddenly stood in front of me in half-length underpants and with calm and controlled movements pulled on a perfectly ironed shirt and white trousers to walk with me to a telephone store to buy a SIM card.
He took me by the arm to cross a busy road and that's how I got my first lesson in crossing a street where cars on the wrong side run and crawl past each other alongside you. That lesson was useful later, when I crossed busy roads with Aafke. For me it soon became routine and an adventure without danger, because I saw that the traffic chaos and the drivers of the always honking cars, scooters and motorcycles respectfully interact with each other and with the pedestrians: they never bump against each other, even though it seems that they will do that every moment.
Together with the photographer I found a suitable telephone store. On the way back he told me about the beautiful sepia wedding photo he had of his parents, about his daily yoga exercises and the skipping of the evening meal, so he stayed so fit. He was 72 and I thought he looked younger than me. Later I introduced Aafke to him when she also had a passport photo taken to get an Indian SIM card. In the end she did not buy one: one working cell phone was sufficient.