Mohammed Khalid is from Lakshmi Nagar in Delhi. Khalid is in Kabul to check on the quality of sheep hides that he’s buying. The leather businessman is also planning a foray into Kunduz province to check on more hides.
Khalid is far from fazed by Monday's blast in Kabul, which killed 58 persons, including four Indian Embassy staffers. “I could be the victim of a bomb blast in India,” he says with a shrug.
He’s a short-term visitor to Afghanistan, but Indian ambassador Jayant Prasad estimates that there are upwards of 3,500 Indian nationals living and working in the country.
Needless to say, what brings many Indians to this trouble-spot is the lure of higher wages. Krishna, who works in a new Kabul hotel, is from Mysore. He’s been in Kabul three months.
“I worked on a US military base in Iraq from 2004 to 2006 as a laundry supervisor — in Baghdad and Faulljah,” he told the Hindustan Times, implying that he’s no stranger to living in adverse conditions.
Initially, when the new hotel opened, there were as many as 50 to 60 Indians working here. Several went to work for Supreme, a Western military contractor while others went home.
Some returned to India on account of security fears, others did so because the bland Afghan food wasn’t suiting their palate. “They could not take the food,” one of Krishna’s colleagues says with a grin, adding for effect that Indians now cook the evening meal in their hotel.
According to Krishna, a cook working on a Western military base would make about $1,200 a month while a waiter might get $600. “This is double of what you make back home,” he said.
Indians work for the United Nations, as advisors to the Afghan government, in engineering projects, in training programmes — in short — the entire spectrum. And, many of their projects are doing better than those being funded by Western nations.
Three employees of the Power Grid Corporation of India were having breakfast when their meal was interrupted by the deafening suicide attack on the Indian embassy building a short distance away.
The power entity’s office, next to the embassy, also suffered the consequences of the blast. The attitude of the staffers was cool, tinged with concern. But no panic, no desperation to return. They are here to help with the construction of the Pul-e-Kumri-Kabul power transmission line.
Rosemary Paulie is from SEWA, Ahmedebad. She’s here to train Afghan volunteers who, in turn, will instruct destitute women help themselves. Like the Power Grid staff, she’s concerned, but not too much.
If the idea was to make Indians leave Afghanistan in droves, then the terrorists who attacked the Embassy building have failed. Blast, or no blast, as of now no one here is thinking of fleeing.