Arts & Entertainment

Paris’ last newspaper street vendor

By Marta Garde

Paris, Aug 13 (efe-epa).- Ali Akbar is the last newspaper street vendor in Paris.

The 67-year-old, originally from Pakistan, has been walking the streets of the Rive Gauche, the southern bank of the French capital’s river, for 47 years.

Although he officially retired two years ago, he is reluctant to leave his job.

“The final rest will come in the cemetery. As long as I am alive, I will not stop,” he says

His schedule begins at noon and does not end until he has sold 50 daily copies of French newspaper Le Monde.

“I can finish at six, seven, eight, nine or even 10,” he tells Efe.

He does not go unnoticed among residents and tourists on Boulevard Saint-Germain, Place de Odéon and Sèvres-Babylone metro station, an area through which he travels up to 20 kilometres a day.

Pedestrians and customers in bars and restaurants are his potential clients.

“Le Monde, Le Monde, Le Monde,” he shouts to attract buyers.

Sometimes he resorts to fake news or jokes to attract attention, like making up that Brigitte Macron is pregnant or a coronavirus cure has been found.

“I make jokes not to make people buy from me, but to make people laugh,” he says.

“I want people to live happily. If it were just about the money, there are 1,000 ways to get it in France.

“I’m nostalgic and I have many relationships with nice people. That’s why I’m still here.”

Residents know him well and many greet him by name.

Akbar keeps half the money of each paper he sells to supplement a small pension of around 1,000 euros a month.

He was born in Rawalpindi, northern Pakistan, the oldest of nine siblings from a poor family.

His father was very hard on him, “aggressive and nervous” and he was afraid of him and would often run away.

He learned English thanks to a teacher who took pity on him, a little boy at the time who sold him roasted corn.

He started working as a child, from cleaning pools to taking care of buffalos, and becoming fluent in English gave him the chance to join the Greek Merchant Marines.

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