So you live in Kaunas, Lithuania and you want flowers delivered to that someone special. Obviously it can't just be a bland bunch of budding begonias. It has to have pizzazz -- and it would be great if the delivery man did too.
No problem. A quick phone call to Tarp Geliu ("Between Flowers" for those not steeped in the intricacies of Lithuanian) will get a beautiful bouquet on the way -- and carried by a black man dressed to the nines in a hussar's uniform. Or at least, that's how it currently works. But a recent complaint of racism -- the first ever dealt with by the Lithuanian Ombudsman's office since the country became part of the European Union in 2004 -- may wilt the program.
As it happens, customers requesting flowers carried by the Somali, 31-year-old Thomas Amaikar, are charged 40 litas (€12) for the service. A white guy in a hussar's uniform only costs 25 litas. In other words, according to a complaint sent into the ombudsman, its a clear case of racial discrimination.
Amaikar, who has lived in Lithuania for six years and delivered flowers at Tarp Geliu for the last four according to the BBC, is one of the rare Africans one encounters among the 3.4 million people who live in the small Baltic country. And in Kaunas, he has become a well-known figure.
Which is how the flower shop is structuring its defense. It's not charging more for Amaikar-delivered blossoms because he's black. Rather, it's because he's a celebrity in high demand. Everyone else -- even if they are dressed up like a 19th century Hungarian cavalry officer -- is ho-hum by comparison. "They're happy and we're happy," Amaikar told Reuters in reference to the customers who request him.
If racial discrimination is proved, Tarp Geliu could be out up to 2,000 litas. In the mean time, the "black hussar" has some deliveries to make.