‘I did a beauty training, back home in India. I’m very good at threading.’ I have no idea what threading is, but Rosa explains that it’s a special technique to shape one’s eyebrows. Hers look all right. ‘Anyway, I worked in beauty salons, where I also did a few massages, then one customer said: “why don’t you work for yourself?” First I said no way. But I was interested in the money. It’s better to earn 50 Euros for yourself in 50 minutes than to have to work really hard and get the same.’
I’m not sure if this is as logical as it sounds.
‘I did a little bit extra, then a little more. But I enjoyed the job and I – touch wood – have been lucky to meet nice people. And a few assholes of course. They pay, they treat me well, they are genuine.’ Rosa is 22, Indian and a bit chubby. She studies Accounting – sometimes. ‘I got a lot of customers also because I’m different; I don’t look like their wives. Most of them are about 50.’
‘Why so old?’
‘Maybe the wife is not sexy anymore. Most come here for a full body massage and hand relief. But sometimes, when they look clean and I like them, I give them the full treatment, which costs 150 Euros.’
‘Are you busy?’
She wasn’t when I called her, earlier that afternoon, after I had found her online: she said I could stop by whenever I wanted.
‘Sometimes I don’t have a lot of customers, maybe two a day.’
‘And what do you do then?’
‘I sit and wait.’
‘You don’t study?’
‘No,’ she laughs. ‘Always plenty to do! Shopping, cleaning, washing, on the phone, al ways busy.’
‘When will you finish your studies?’ I must sound a bit like a concerned father.
‘Depends on me, how quick I do the exams.’
‘Why did you come to study here?’
‘Because friends of mine told me it was good here. There would be jobs, it was just before the recession. I had decided to come in 2006, just before the recession started, but when I finally came, in 2008, crisis had hit and it was basically impossible to get a real job with my student visa.’
‘But if you spend all your time shopping it will take even longer find a real job.’ Strict Dad warns …
She laughs. ‘I’m a girl, I get tempted, everybody’s always shopping.’
‘Okay… What will you do in 5 years?’
I don’t know. It depends if I get a work permit. I like it here, I even don’t mind the weather. My country is too hot.’
‘What do you think of Europe?’
‘I’ve never been. I’ve only been here and in London.’
England apparently isn’t in Europe.
‘I don’t know any European people either. My friends are Irish.’
‘Do people know what you do?’
‘No, it’s a secret. They know I do the beauty things and the threading, but they would not even think that I do this! It’s taboo. I understand it and even agree, but it helps to pay the bills. And I can pay for college; it’s 5,000 Euros per year. I don’t have to ask my parents. And I enjoy it. To do the job, I have to enjoy it. Sometimes I’m in a bad mood. But when a customer arrives, I take a deep breath and I’m cheerful. Because the customer comes to relax.’
She laughs exuberantly, but it sounds a bit fake.
‘But while you’re here, can I give you a massage?’
She sees a new pair of shoes in me, but I refuse politely and leave.