In line with the rest of the events of a very mad trip I went to see the Eiffel yesterday. Is it beautiful? Not exactly. But its the result of someone's mad idea to build the tallest structure in the world and today it makes brilliant amounts of money – close to 5 million Euro in profits for the city of Paris every year!
Self met companions at a bistro near the Bir Hakiem. Sat down and after the hellos, glanced at the menu. My heart literally stopped with joy – there was the first menu in Paris which listed 4 vegetarian items and in a separate green box at that! While I sampled (okay… not sampled, I ordered almost ALL the veggie items on it!) the weather turned cold and wet and blustery. Once the wet bit passed, the cold and blustery remained encouraging one to give up all thoughts of the Eiffel (heck! I saw it out of the window everyday) and head to bed.
However, my companions were braver than I (and more dedicated to the cause of buying Eiffel key chains). So we showed up at the tower and had tons of fun trying to take photos that got a human being and the tower in the same shot. Anyways, the supply side of Eiffel tower key chains is quite interesting. The Bir Hakeim side is handled by folks of African origin and the Ecole Militaire side almost entirely by Indians. You won’t see a single chap that is not in the ‘Fair & Lovely’ target segment hawking the things.
So we proceeded to bargain in good Dilli Punju Hindi with a gentleman from Ambala who was making his living selling Eiffels to passing tourists. 5 Euros gets you 25 of the things which seemed like a remarkably good deal to me. He confirmed to us when we enquired if only Indians did this stuff, “Hum hi nahin bechte. Doosre side pe sare kaaale bechte hain na”.
The stunning thing is only 1% of tourists coming to the Eiffel (atleast in 2006) were Indians. I bet half of that 1% said, “What a stupid city. No one selling water and trash souvenirs to tourists. Chalo lets turn up.” and came back on legit work visas, tourist visas or as illegal immigrants and voila, a new generation of ‘enterprising Indian entrepreneurs abroad’ is taking root. Watch out Lord Paul.