A Charge Sheet
One of my friends told this story so I would like to tell it in his words using first person pronoun, “I used to go to office in taxi. As my salary was limited, so I used to take the public taxi or van of my route just like thousands of the citizens of Kabul. Anyhow, this public taxi was mostly not a good experience as there used to be many problems. First, one had to wait for a taxi and usually it lasted from 5 minutes to half hour. Secondly, two passengers were made seated on the front seat beside the driver. Like all the passengers, I felt very uncomfortable to sit in front so I used to look for an empty seat in the rear. Sitting in rear was also not a good experience as the drivers used to make three persons sit and it was again a bit uncomfortable. But the most uncomfortable was when I used to arrive office in a public transport and many a times, I felt that some of my colleagues used to give out a faint smile as if they were making fun of all these. Having a look at all these, I longed to buy a car or be able to hire a private taxi to drive me to the office.
I continued my journey to and from the office in such circumstances. After some time, I got promotion and with this came a considerable rise in my salary as well. Now I was included among one of the officers and this public taxi did not suit my status or designation in office. I saw that all my colleagues either used their own cars or hired a private taxi to come and leave the office. Every passing day made me feel that now my status and designation demanded some kind of change in my routine as well. So I checked my budget and with all the sacrifices in some of my other expenses, I was able to spare money for a private taxi. So every day, I used to come out of the house, hired a taxi and arrived in office and did the same in the evening. It instantly relieved me of the psychological distress that I was using a public taxi and my colleague might note and laugh at me. At the same time, it was comfortable to sit all alone in the rear seat and enjoy the spacious seats.
However, the problem did not end here. When I used to travel by a public taxi or van, I used to sit among common people, knew about their condition and felt their difficulties. Every day, I used to come along with a new experience and discovered something new about my fellow travelers. Most of the times I used to be grateful and felt contented on my condition when I noticed that my circumstances were far better than a lot many people.
I also felt sorry that I was on a right path and just the fear of baseless criticism of others had made me quit the path and I had not trusted my own good deeds and beliefs.
Then started another problem. It is the rule that when one hires a taxi, the driver cannot make sit any other passenger in the cab. But every day, the drivers used to start crying about inflation, rise in gas prices and this and that and requested me to make sit some passengers so that he should earn some more and earn the bread for his family.
In the beginning, I used to ignore this but gradual persuasion made me change my mind a bit. I put three conditions to them; they could make a person sit in the taxi if they should lessen the fare of passengers from my fare or they should take half fare of passenger and half should be lessened from my fare or if the conditions were not acceptable, they should take a passenger absolutely free but it was very strange and sad to discover that they always wanted each and everything to themselves and never accepted any of the conditions. They wanted they should make more passengers sit in the taxi and should take all the fare for themselves. This was absolutely unfair for me and I never allowed it and as a result, I was never much liked by the taxi drivers.
There happened many strange and interesting observations in this regard. Once I bought a can of Dew for myself and also one for the taxi driver. Seeing that I was a man of his choice, he asked my permission to make sit some passengers. I was in good mood that day and so I permitted him to make sit two passengers, one in front and one in the rear seat. After he had made seated the two passengers, he gave out a silly smile and asked for permission to make sit one more passenger in front and said with a strange smile, “Sir, it has nothing to do with you, they are habitual of sitting two in the front”. Not knowing what to say, I nodded my head and soon one more passenger was in the front seat. When he saw the ice melting, he gave me another silly smile and said, “Sir, you seem to be a good person, would you kindly permit me to make sit one more person in the rear. Hope that it won’t disturb you a lot”. To this I said, “Ok, you may take as many passengers as you like and I am stepping down your taxi”. As I said this, he at once apologized and moved the taxi forward.
Another day, a taxi driver started complaining of his poor economic conditions and things alike and asked my permission to take some more passengers in the taxi. Remembering the bitter experiences of past, I at once rejected his request and said that if he wanted to take passengers, he should take them and I would take another taxi. To this, the polite and humble man at once changed his tone and started shouting, “You have not bought my taxi. If you cannot sit with other humans, you should better step down my taxi”. To this I said ‘fine’ and stepped down and started waiting on the roadside for another taxi. The taxi driver started yelling that, “Look at this gentleman; he thinks that he can buy my taxi in 150 Afghanis and he is very arrogant and inconsiderate”. It was not necessary to give any answer to this stupid person but when I sat in another taxi, the person was still shouting and talking against me”.
My friend also shared some more of his experiences which I would share with you some other day but above statement is a charge sheet to show how we have forgotten our etiquettes, norms and acceptable behaviors and our greed has receded all our feelings and virtues.
Mahmood Hassan Quraishi is a permanent writer of the Afghanistan Express Daily.