Before moving to Abu Dhabi, I did not ponder much over how life would be here. I prepared only for a few basics such as carrying travel converters or having a clear opinion about Arvind Kejriwal’s impact on Indian politics.
I did not think about not having anyone to talk to outside of office or the looming non-existent social life. And surprisingly, none of it bothers me. It did not even cross my mind until someone pointed it out. To be specific, until CG spotted a trend in my taxi tales.
Our end of day catch-ups would often have a narration of an interesting exchange with the guys I depend on more than the security guards of my building. Here are a few highlights from the last two months.
Taxi Guy 1: Young Pakistani guy, bent on proving that my house is too far from my office. He named at least five localities that would have suited me better and how I should tell my employers to get it changed. He was kind enough to offer any help I needed and gave me his phone number and shift timings if I ever need him.
Taxi Guy 2: Nepali guy who had worked in manufacturing units in Noida and Faridabad before moving here. I think, the conversation with him was after a few days of not speaking in Hindi. I loved how he judged me for being from South Delhi and showed off his knowledge of the city!
Taxi Guy 3: A middle-aged Pakistani man, he had a Hindi radio station on which started playing Rafi’s “chaand mera dil” soon after I climbed in. I love the song, and clearly he did too. We both started singing together. *yes, I feel safe enough to let loose here*. I enjoyed it – late evening, city lights and a connection from home. To my surprise, I complimented him. He obviously wasn’t expecting it, so just smiled. But the next moment, he took out a tape with a Pritam/Anu Malik collection and sang all the way till my destination. “Bheege hont tere” is not something I can sing with a stranger even in the safest zone.
Taxi Guy 4: After dinner with some colleagues, I got inquisitive questions from another Pakistani guy, this one with a heavy accent, about the people I was with, my family, my work, and so on. Here’s an excerpt:
Him: “Pati keedhar hai”
Me: “Pati nahi hai”
Him: “Wallah, phir keedhar hai”
Me: “Abhi nahi hai, shaadi nahi hui”
Him: “Eedhar kis ke saath rehti ho?”
Me: “Akele rehti hoon”
Him: “Parivar keedhar hai”
Me: “Dilli mein”
To deviate his interest, I told him they were holidaying in the hills. But his deduction:
Him: “Wallah, tum to ameer ho! Idhar kya kar rahi ho? Koi mama/chacha/bhai nahi hai kya eedhar? Mera to mama ka ladka saath rehta hai. Saamne gali mein bhi ek bhai rehta hai! Tum akele kyun aayi eedhar?”
Me (now anxious and unsure about the rationale of my move): “Main chali jayungi kuch maheeno mein!!”
Taxi Guy 5: This Malayali guy was not comfortable with Hindi but insisted on talking in the language and telling me all about his romance with the wife. It was cute until he mentioned how she wanted to commit suicide because his parents wouldn’t approve of the marriage. And then how she and his children now live in Kerala to take care of old parents. But later he gave me tips on the best south Indian restaurants in Abu Dhabi and I discussed my only Kerala experience with him – Wayanad!
Taxi Guy 6: This slightly scary old uncle with lots of surma judged me by the complexion of my skin. When he discovered that I was not from Pakistan, he talked of how South Indians have darker complexion. I tried to show off my knowledge of Punjab since his last name was Jalandhar but he took my case for associating it with ‘land’ as his name came from his grandfather’s. I do still wonder where his grandfather got it from.
He then talked of Kashmir which made me uncomfortable because I could not decipher most of what he said in that serious tone. I then heard the word ‘aman’ and peacefully went to work.
Taxi Guy 7: Without a doubt, this man loved Delhi more than I do! He had visited in 2012 and spoke of it as he had seen it only last week. He described his experience vividly and at length. At one point I noticed he was driving at 60 kmph (which is a rarity in this city where “please slow down, you are crossing the speed limit” is the most commonly heard phrase) because he was so lost in his story of the Delhi Metro.
He was a sharp guy. Asked me all about my profession and then came up with an example to demonstrate his understanding of what I had explained to him. And then it got awkward because he was looking for a new job and there was no way I could have helped him.
Taxi Guy 8: “Khalifa Street, near Pizza Hut.” “After the Central Market?” “Erm, I don’t know, I am new here.” “That makes it the two of us!” “Oh! How long? I’ve been here a month.” “15 days today.” *Turns on Google Maps*
And when I am not participating in any such conversations, I am cursing away in my quest to find a taxi!