The Re-Birth of Larmina Binai

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Lucinda Palme

The Re-Birth of Larmina Binai

The weekend market at Kviberg in Gothenburg has impermanence to many things: from retailers to goods and shoppers to groceries. Who owns a spot and where in the market, within the warehouses and outside them, is a matter of time. So, is the case with the shoppers: those who visit one day in a weekend for one season, or a year, or for years will eventually disconnect their low-budget buying times once their incomes increase.

Shoppers started to arrive. Because the shoppers also need to drink and eat something somewhere, there are foodstalls inside and outside, fixed and unfixed ones, few with a single snack to sell.

Larmina Binai arrived with her aunt with two cardboard boxes, and placed them in front of one of the warehouses on a stout cement pedestal left temporarily there by the City of Gothenburg’s surface transport managers. The aunt managed to get a chair for herself, and squeezed her bulbous body on it, and kept an eye on Larmina: supervising, mentoring, advising on how to talk to customers – what to say, how to respond.

The boxes did attract attention with few passers-by and shoppers, and most of them noticed the standing girl or the woman seated in the chair. The notice on the boxes was an A4 paper and the print on it was strikingly bold with a picture of the baked dish with savoury fillings:

Afghanska

Lammkött och Grönsaker

Sambosa

Grönsaker (1st 10 kr)

Lammkött (1st 15 kr, 2st 25 kr)

At the bottom of the A4 was a picture of the dish: few triangular snacks with a transparent slender layer of baked flour leafing out and with the dark poppy seeds popping out on them.

One or two Gothenburgers did strain their noses to have a taste of the snack. Larmina carefully wrapped the sambosa in a white paper, and asked the customer whether one wanted ketchup or mayonnaise sauce. Accordingly, she poured a patch and handed over to the customer, and collected the money: cash in hand. The aunt encouraged her, ‘you do it’, ‘you can do it’. With her aunt in her background, literally, and with the transaction requiring not more than a dozen words, she began to manage.

When no customer approached, she had a world to see right in front of her like in a movie. She never saw so many women wearing shorts, and some smoking cigarettes; girls of her age clad in shorts and T-shirts showing arms, armpits and limbs and striding past her confidently, freely, securely, and it was summer, and a sunny day.

As the day progressed, the number of customers buying sambosas grew with each passing hour, Larmina stood there selling sambosas though her aunt had disappeared from her background. She sat and stood as the situation required from her. One or two customers spoke to her going beyond the transaction, where did she come from, and why. Adjusting her hijab as shyly as shyness allowed, she answered them, sweetly.

Larmina is a Dari speaker, and she is learning Swedish. She can hold a conversation in her new language for about three minutes and more with words and in phrases.

In the coming and going crowds, Larmina could spot the people from her country, too. Many brushed past her with looks but towards the end of the day, a guy came almost running towards her. He asked her how many were left, and asked her to pack ‘all of them’. She pulled out a transparent plastic bag, given freely at supermarkets and at Kviberg market, and filled it with eighteen sambosas. The customer paid, collected the bag, and dashed off.

Larmina marvelled at herself.

The marvel a youngster experiences to experience the future with a determination to find one’s call.

Standing on a busy road on a Sunday in the sunny summery day, Larmina had sold all the sambosas she had made this morning along with her aunt. She stood erectly. She called her aunt, from an out-of-date mobile phone, and told the situation, the aunt responded: wait, I’m there soon.

Inhaling deeply, exhaling slowly, Larmina took out the hijab that covered her ears and hairs. She let the air embrace her hairs. Neither she felt the Afghan air in her hairs nor did she let the air of the other countries, on her long journey, to touch her hairs but in Gothenburg, for the first time in over a year, she let the Swedish air kiss her hairs.

Feeeling the air in her hairs, she felt the hiss of freedom in her ears.

—Lucinda Palme