In Amsterdam: When Pakistanis bring shame to Pakistan
‘Hi! Good evening, I want to go to Diemen please!’
I hopped into the second taxi waiting in line outside the Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena Station.
It was almost 2:00 am and I was returning home from the 25 year jubilee dinner that my company hosted at Den Haag (The Hague). I normally prefer to travel via public transport but this odd hour didn’t leave me with much choice; the night bus would require a half an hour wait and an additional 20 minutes to get home and I was tired.
On the other hand, the taxi ride would take me around eight minutes to reach home; I was sure of this because of my frequent visits to Pathe cinema (which is right next to Station ArenA) with my cousin in his car so I knew the route well. So without much thought, I succumbed and hailed a cab.
“Yes sure,” replied the south Asian looking taxi driver.
He was a buff looking guy with a half bald head. The little hair that he had was a light shade of grey and it hovered around his ears, making it hard for me to examine his face.
“How much will this ride cost?”
“According to the meter, Sir.”
Mind you, in my two years of having lived here, I have never traveled in a taxi before. But then, how much can an eight minute ride possibly cost? Not more than 15 Euros, I guessed? I’m safe.
And so my journey began. The driver pumped up the radio, and a song from an Indian movie reverberated from the tiny speakers placed at the back and I sunk into my seat. After a few minutes, I realised that we were going the wrong way but I didn’t say anything.
Another few minutes passed. I was well aware of the area and by now I was sure we were off route- this was certainly not the way I took home. But, I still didn’t say anything.
The driver had taken a longer route, perhaps in hope of scoring high numbers on his metre. Soon after I asked,
“‘Do you understand this language?,” referring to the song playing in the background.
He was ecstatic,
‘Yes I do! This is a Hindi song and I’m from Pakistan. Pakistani’s understand this language’.
Until now, he had no idea that I was also as Pakistani as he was, maybe because I was talking to him in Dutch fluently.
Next, I asked him about the government situation in Pakistan. He didn’t have anything good to say about the government that ended its term in March 2013. He referred to it as ‘corrupt, dishonest and bloodsucking vampires.’
“I’ve been driving a taxi for 20 years now and I would love to go and live in Pakistan, but the situation there is not worth it.”
“Robbery, murder and injustice is common,” he said with disappointment.
The music faded in the background and the clock struck 2:30 am as I asked him to pullover in the parking lot behind my street. The meter displayed ’21 Euros’ in bold red.
‘Uncle why did you take such a long route instead of the other five minute one?,’ I asked and in Urdu this time.
He was shocked; I guess he didn’t see that coming!
“Beta, I didn’t know about that route!,” he sounded uncomfortable.
I had nothing left to say as I gave him the amount I supposedly owed him and walked out. His words echoed in my head, ‘corrupt, dishonest, bloodsucking government.’
I just have one question:
How can we expect the government to be honest when we fail dismally at doing so ourselves?
The buck stops with you at the end of the day and the government isn’t to blame for everything.
Follow Khizar on Twitter @khizarnaeem
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