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8th July 2022

THE ROMANCE OF OUR TAXI DRIVERS

Now car-less, we’ve become increasingly dependent on the splendid service we receive from local taxi drivers. At first I was hesitant to ask them about where their family origins were, but I have discovered that they rather like to tell their story and so in our journeying we’ve been taken around Africa, the Near East and Southern Asia.

One Nigerian driver was very happy when I told him the story of a student of mine who said the day that Biafra declared its independence was the happiest day in his life: the colonial baddy in his story was not the British but the powers-that-be in Lagos. That taxi driver also came from Biafra. Then we have had drivers from both part of Kashmir, regretting that they came from the wrong side of the 1948 border line – the Muslim one from the Indian part and the Hindu one from the Pakistan controlled part. Others took us in conversation to Ethiopia and Somaliland, and others to Iraq and Bangladesh.

Some were British born and talked of the strangeness of visiting the country where their parents were born: all seemed to plan periodic visits to family still living in their country of origin. Only one driver in five months has been white and she was our only female driver.

But courtesy and desire to please has been the hallmark of all – what a pity it is that many of them told us that they have given up weekend night driving because of the abusive behaviour of clients, both to drivers and their vehicles. There is surely a message here of how dependent we have become on those who have come to this country as refugees and how much they and their heritage need to be respected, especially when our colonial mistakes have created problems for them.

John Briggs