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No Bed of Roses: A Rose Seller in Germany

For most immigrants, Germany is a land of opportunity, wealth and security. But once they reach Germany, they realise their life here is also not totally free of hardships. One such immigrant is Golam Khair from Bangladesh, a flower seller on the streets of Dortmund. He has written a book describing his experiences in Germany.

Golam Khair with his book 'Der Rosenverkäufer', or The Rose Seller.

Golam Khair with his book 'Der Rosenverkäufer', or The Rose Seller.

Golam Khair stands in the small kitchenette of his one-room apartment in Dortmund, and cooks his lunch. He sings a song and reminisces about his hometown in Bangladesh.

Outside the door of his apartment, there are two black buckets with pink, long-stemmed roses.

Later in the evening, Golam will set out for the city to sell these roses to the customers at Dortmund's pubs. Becoming a street flower seller was not something Golam would have ever dreamed of a decade ago.

A managing director of a textile company at the age of 29, Golam lived a comfortable life till October 2000. While visiting a political rally in Dhaka, he was beaten up by opponents of his boss, an ex-politician. He fled to Germany to escape the life threats and applied for asylum. He was sent to an asylum camp in Chemnitz in East Germany. This, says Golam, was like being in a prison. He could not go out often, and when he did, he was attacked by Neo-Nazi youth in Chemnitz.

From businessman to street flower seller

Golam says the money he received was also not enough to contact his family members in Bangladesh by telephone. So he left for Dortmund and started selling roses on the streets to scrape together a living. Nine months later, Golam was finally able to afford a telephone call to his home in Bangladesh. But to his surprise, all his relatives refused to talk to him.

“They told me, I am living here like the Duke of Edinburgh. That I am making a lot of money and doing nothing for my family. I have forgotten my family, they told me,” remembers Golam. Before he could explain the truth, his mother cut the call.

Feeling lonely and desperate to communicate his situation to his family, Golam began to write his story in his diary. He began it as a letter to his mother, but soon reached 200 pages.

Literary beginnings

A few months later, Golam's friend took him to the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Cologne. On reading his story, the Foundation gave Golam a certificate saying that his letter could make a good book. So, with help from his new friends in Dortmund, Golam re-wrote, translated and printed the first 200 copies of his book 'The Rose Seller' in German. He took it along with him on his flower-selling rounds, and within days, all copies were sold out.

Yet Golam’s success seems to be only short-lived. Till now, Golam had been allowed to stay on by the German authorities, despite being illegal in the country. But now his residence permit has been officially denied and he must go back to Bangladesh.

But Golam does not want to go back. He is afraid he will not get his old job back and will lose everything again. “Now I have a great opportunity here in Germany. My book is selling well, maybe it will make my career,” he says.

Golam hasn’t given up on efforts to stay back, but all his applications have been denied. Now, Golam is holding on to one dream: to present his book at the Frankfurt Book Fair before going back home.

  • Date 06.02.2009
  • Author Pia Chandavarkar 06/02/09
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LruI
  • Date 06.02.2009
  • Author Pia Chandavarkar 06/02/09
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LruI