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Whose are these Indians in Tirana?

Whose are these Indians in Tirana?

Alfred Lela

I saw them bored on the benches in front of a hotel near my apartment. Every day a new herd was passing by dragging luggage through the slabs just laid down by the city hall. A little later another group is coming. Indians are an easily distinguishable ethnic group, not by skin color (because there are plenty of dark Albanians), but by clothing. In most cases a sari, other times the combination of something that looks like a dress and is worn over pants. Sandals or flat shoes, beards for men, and those peculiar dots on the forehead for women. There was also a turban here and there, an accessory that announces the presence of a Sikh, a separate community in a subcontinent like India, multiethnic, multilingual, multibillion. A striking typology, although recently other ethnicities have been added to our capital: the newly arrived Afghans after the Iranians of MEK, the Syrians in the reception camps, and other displaced people fleeing the war zones. Albania is always a pit stop. A bridge that catapults pilgrims to the promised shores.

But this new swarm is not refugees. They choose good hotels. Dresses, despite their simplicity, do not express poverty; in their hands rotate the latest smartphones; the baggage they carry behind them is dignified, not the sacks that the war throws on the backs of the Muhajirs.

You see others like them in the city, on the main streets, in downtown, curious heads stretching out in search of the metropolitan bars, near the hotels in the center, giving and receiving in English which, though correct, preserves that non-sounding northern American accent.

The receptionist of a hotel tells me that they are Canadians. Ie Canadian nationals of Indian descent. A source at the Rinas airport tells me that several hundred, if not thousands, have entered Albania.

But why? What do these people who come from India and go to Canada want in Albania?

Simple. Albania, careless as it is, has no filters like a normal country. Also, until two days ago it was off the Covid-19 red list. Unlike India which is on this list. Canadians returning from their country of origin needed an intermediate country and period, a transitory vademecum. With an Albanian stamp on the passport and a few days in Tirana, they could escape the blockade or quarantine in the western adopted country when they returned.

Albania is a country of besa, which does not close the doors to foreigners, says the Prime Minister, right? So welcome the Canadian-Indians, perhaps the bearers of Covid-19, unwelcomed friends from a country that is not considered safe, seekers of a path, like most Orientals, to throw off the system.

There is no problem this is done at the expense of Albanians. They are sheep of God. Being sheep, you do not even risk them. You might have Covid-19, not chickenpox. That one, yes, would have been dangerous for our flock.

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