I have lived and grown up in Islamabad and Rawalpindi for a good period of my life. With my meager resources and living there as a student I often had to resort to using the public transport to navigate my way around the twin cities and mostly preferred taxi’s since they took me to my desired location. However most of the time the trips ended in silence, with me paying the taxi driver as he dropped me off to my desired location. Mundane days, with mundane endings.
And it was just another day, as I sat in a broken down Suzuki fx heading home from college. It seemed just like any other, the only difference being that this particular cab was so broken down, that it was creaking and cranking from every nut and bolt as it whizzed its way slowly towards my home. The taxi driver, a dark guy with a moustache wearing an old ragged Shalwar Kameez seemed like a silent man. It bumped its way towards home.
I had no intentions of chatting up with the guy, Jalaludin was his name I later found out. I received a call from a friend and I started conversing with her in English. “The taxi is really broken down, I can barely hear you, I’ll call you when I reach home,” I told my friend. “My apologies, sir for the broken down Taxi,” the taxi driver said in impeccable English.
I stared at him, and kept staring at him, my mouth half open in astonishment. “How do you know such good English?” I asked him completely surprised and taken aback.
He smiled, “I completed my bachelors from Karachi University in Political Science. I was previously working with HSBC bank, as customer relations executive. I was recently fired. Previously, I was working with MCB in credit card sales,” he said, and noticed my reaction which hardly hid my disbelief as he talked to me. He chuckled, and said, “You don’t believe me do you sir?” “Well, it is pretty hard to believe that you were working with HSBC,” I replied. He took out his wallet, opened it and revealed his HSBC company card with his picture. It was the same man, wearing a suit, looking very presentable and hardly recognizable. I think it was the absence of the moustache. The card read, Jalaludin, Customer relations executive HSBC.
I gave Jalaludin my phone number and email address. I asked him to send me his CV and I’ll look around for a job. He never called. But Jalaludin is one of many taxi drivers out there, forced by the lack of job opportunities and circumstance to rent taxies and roam around the cities of Pakistan. What stands out though, is that honourable men like Jalaludin are now opening up to professions like driving a taxi, in order to earn an honest living. For me personally Jalaludin stood out because he was a representation of the hard working Pakistani’s out there and how far they can go without compromising on their values.
For the youth of this country, Jalaludin is a reality check that questions the widely held belief of education enabling them to find a job. While this story is indeed quite unfortunate there does seem to be a tinsel of hope. What has started as driving a taxi, with Jalaludin’s education might enable him to utilize what he has earned to convert this challenge into an opportunity. One day, he might even have his own fleet of cabs, you never know.
Jalaludin is a testimony to the will of the Pakistani’s to survive, to not give up in the face of adversity and to stand up to any challenge irrespective of the odds stacked up against them. Here’s to celebrating people like Jalaludin and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy who remind us that Pakistan is more than just a failed state.
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