Discovering the I in I Amsterdam.

The freedom to explore, the feeling of extensive spaces and bigness make me comfortable, rather less claustrophobic. I have always lived in capital cities, but the last two years of my life were spent in a small city – Eindhoven. Therefore, to experience another capital city my husband and I decided to move to Amsterdam.

Although Amsterdam is a small city compared to the other capital cities I have lived in, when we finally found a house here I could feel my muscles relax, the choking feeling slowly disappear. It was like the freedom of mind and body one feels after a dose of intense meditation.

Two days after settling in, I began on my route to discovery. I chose to cycle – the thing I love the most about Holland – on the quaint but modern streets of Amsterdam. As the wheels rolled, the busy roads intersecting with the calm canals revealed a unique character of the city. After a few minutes into the city, my aimless journey found a destination. It was one of the many salons that are spread around the city like chaff that spreads on the floor after you sieve wheat.

Epilleren – 7 euros (Eyebrows – 7 euros) was painted on the glass facade of the salon. I braked, a reflex action I couldn’t avoid. I settled in a cozy chair, and the friendly English-speaking staff member began winding thread around his hand. To my surprise – and I guarantee many Indian women would be surprised – a man was going to do my eyebrows. It was the first time in my life that a man would be doing my eyebrows. Not only was I stunned, but uncomfortable too.

As I laid my head back, with a lot of inhibitions in my mind, he deftly began his job. As he was concentrating, my curious mind pushed out a few questions out of my mouth. I gathered that he was from Iraq, uneducated, and started working as a cleaner in a salon at the tender age of 16. “If you have to grow in the business in Iraq, everyone, be it a man or woman, has to learn the basics of threading and waxing,” he told me. This is something completely unheard of, where I grew up in India. One day, on his way to the salon, he was caught by the police and thrown into jail, as he was in an unidentified Muslim territory. The court gave orders to kill him as soon as he turned 18. One night he fled and a few years later came to the Netherlands. Well, that part of the story is a bit unclear. How did he come to the Netherlands? Tickets? Visa? But I told myself to shut up. Sahana, you can’t be more intrusive. So after he arrived here, he had no place to eat, sleep, etc. He claimed for refugee status at the Human Rights Commission. He started working in one of the salons in Amsterdam, as a cleaner with the basic knowledge of threading.

Today, he owns the salon I was in. And guess what, he has hired a slew of American and Dutch hair and beauty professionals. He wore a simple, pale yellow half shirt with grey pants. Lines of experience ran through his hands making them appear frail, yet strong. He bothered no more than doing his job meticulously, giving me as little pain as possible. Hundreds of people like him come to other countries, either due to fate or fortune, to build something for themselves. How many of us are successful? How many of us stand strong?

As I paid him and bid him goodbye, all I could feel was the strong sense of faith he exhibited. Big cities do provide opportunities. But can you make it big? Where you are doesn’t matter, what you do doesn’t either. But what matters is your ability to seize the opportunity and dream!