He showed me his Belgian residence permit so that I could write down his name. The first name it said was Singh. “Everybody’s name in Chohla Sahib, the village where I come from, is Singh. Actually, this is my last name, but when registering with the municipality they noted it as my first name. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s easier to remember for Belgians. My Indian first name is Rajinder, abbreviated Ravi.” He shows me the silver bracelet around his wrist, in which the four letters are engraved. I look up the name Singh online, and according to Wikipedia more than 36 million people share this surname. Ravi is from Chohla Sahib, a village in the Punjab province. “My father came to Belgium first. He lived here for fifteen years, but returned to our village in 2012. There he opened a grocery store, following the example of the shops here. But because the villagers are used to buying small quantities, the concept didn’t catch on. They can only afford a little oil instead of a whole bottle.” Ravi came to Belgium in 2015. “It’s too hot in India and work is underpaid. In two years’ time, I’ve been able to pay a driver’s license, buy a car and rent an apartment here. This would take me ten years in India.” When I asked him if he ever wants to go back to India he says: “My mother came to visit me from India recently. She intended to stay here for one month, but went back after ten days. The weather is too bad here. One day I want to go to my family in Canada, but my brother will go back soon. To work in the gym my family has opened. That concept is catching on,” he smiles.
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