A Day in the Life of an Islooite Cabby

Local%20tax%20driver%20waiting%20for%20passengers%20Islamabad.jpgIslamabad is distinguished in one aspect of public transport from many cities in the rest of the country: we do not have rickshaws, and we do not have tongas. But we have yellow cabs, and an arsenal of them. Some people might call it the capital’s edge, others might think that it lacks some of the traditional aspects of the Pakistani “on the road” travel experience sans diesel smoke, ear jarring noise, and honking of horns that can blow up your ear drums. Many say that the worse drivers out there on the roads are these cabbies. In short these folks have to take a lot of bashing from public, but some love them for the hard effort they put in making sure that Islooite communters get to their destinations. I finally decided to find out for myself: what goes on in the life of a typical yellow cab driver, and her is what Sala – ur- Rehman, a veteran cabby has to say.

Sala%27s%20Cab.JPGHow does a typical day start and end for a taxi driver?Well it depends, and varies. Some start as early as 4-5 am, others wait till 6-7am. Then some would go on till 8pm in the night while others may continue till 12 am. It really depends on how good your taxi is and how much effort the driver can put in

What are your average daily earnings?
Depends on luck. Most drivers have taxis on contract so they have to pay 300 per day. Then 250 for CNG. Well on average a driver saves around 200-500 per day. Some days you might not earn much. It’s an ad -hoc business.

Tell us about the passengers you get.
Most of the public in Islamabad is very nice and courteous, including the foreigners. That’s why I choose to drive in Islamabad instead of Rawalpindi, despite that I live there.

How do you calculate fare?
We estimate. There was a time when we used to run meters. But then the petrol and cng prices were lower as well. Now the prices change every week, so we cant really keep up So we have developed an understanding on sector to sector travel.

Why do some taxi stands charge an extra 10 rupee or so?
They have given out taxi parking on contract. Hence we have to pay them parking fee, although most of them contractors are illegal, but we can’t do anything about it.

How does Islamabad Traffic police treat you?
They are really good. If you don’t mess up with traffic rules, they don’t mess up with you. They don’t bother you unnecessarily.

Tell me honestly about good and bad things about the taxi drivers?
They are generally very honest people. Sometimes the passengers forget their stuff in the taxi, but we return them even if we have to go to the other side of the city. Recently a guy forgot a mobile worth 35000 in my taxi, I went back the whole city to return it to him. He rewarded me with RS 500. Bad things, well some taxi drivers might ask for high fare from foreigners, and people who look like new to the city, but that is bad and the cabby community always discourages it. Such taxi drivers do not have a good repute.

What do you expect from passengers?
Well, first of all they should have change, and money in smaller denominations. Especially late at night when we can’t get change for them. If they have big rupees note, they should let us know in advance. Secondly, they should know where they are headed especially if it is some uncommon place. Sometimes the passengers take the name of a place and then when you show up there, they realize they wanted to go to a completely different area, and then they do not pay extra for that too. So passengers should first actually find out where to go if they are new to the city. Thirdly, they should scan the taxi when they leave. It’s their duty to make sure that they carry their personal belongings when they leave.

Any wish list?
Government should make arrangements for proper taxi stands. There should be proper taxi stands near markets. Currently the official taxi stands are away from the market so you see illegle parkings near the markets. Then there should be some method of central command and communication that can relay pick and drop status to different areas. Currently everything is haphazard and results in a lot of confusion and frustration.

Are you happy with what you do?
Well, I sure wish I could do more with my life, but I am happy, atleast I get to go places and meet different people

3 Comments so far

  1. Monkey (unregistered) on November 19th, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

    This was one interesting piece. I really like the idea of it!

  2. Farhan (unregistered) on November 19th, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

    Nice, I usually asks questions like this whenever i take a trip on taxi :)

    Most seem pretty happy with the islamabadians

  3. A for Apple (unregistered) on November 20th, 2006 @ 11:26 pm

    Pretty nice and interesting Interview … I ask so many questions too … in days after afgan war when islamabad was flooded in with afghanis then a butcher near our home was a rtd major … a driver we knew was actually aircraft engineer in ariaana airlines … Life …!

    Wishing him luck happiness and fulfillment in his life …!!!

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