Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 27, Tuesday July 8, 2008



Under A Different Sky
By Iffat Nawaz

Taxicab confessions

IN a random DC morning on my way to work I decided to spend a little more. I hailed a taxicab. He stopped a feet short of my toes, I got up fast without leaving a trace.

He was eating something sweet and flaky. The crumbs were stuck to his unshaven face. He opened his mouth full of food and asked me where I was going. I answered him quickly so he would close his mouth but instead he looked me up and down with his mouth half open, a few flakes fell out of his lips and fell to the floor near me.

He turned around and started driving. A second later he said “Indian?” Another second later I answered “No.” He turned around again and said “Pakistani?” To which I gave my second “No.” I couldn't see his face completely but I saw his mouth was still moving. The reflection of his eyebrows on the rear-view-mirror looked annoyed.

But I wasn't going to be so easy this time. Every time, yes every single time I get on a cab and the cab driver is of a similar shade of skin tone as me he has to ask where I am from. In the beginning I would tell the truth, but the truth always took me to places I didn't want to be. Like answering that I am from Bangladesh, raised a Muslim, went to college brought on more questions like if I was married, what kind of men I like, am I a legal immigrant, do I cook at home, am I interested in meeting few prospects for marriage, and sometimes those prospects where the cab drivers themselves. So I didn't feel like going down that route. No, not that morning.

After a minute of bad driving he turns around again. Thankfully he had swallowed whatever he was eating. He then asked, “Where are you from?”

I answered “From here.”

“Here?” he asked, “Then where are your parents from?”

Luckily my phone rings right at that moment so I ignore him and pick up. And it's my mother. So I chat with her for a while and hang up the phone.

He turns around again and says, “So you are Muslim? I heard you say Khoda Hafez.”

I don't say anything pretending not to hear him.

He asks, “Are you married? You should marry a Muslim boy. And if you like one of the Goras or the Kalas make sure you have them convert or both of you will go to hell.”

I feel the anger creeping up but I don't let it out. I want to tell him to wipe his mouth, to grow up, stop talking, take a shower, clean his cab, learn to drive, know the word “privacy,” but instead I do nothing, I keep looking out of the window like I didn't hear him.

He turns around again, tries to read my expression. I keep looking out. I can feel his eyes journeying through my body, stripping me down. He laughs a muffled laugh.

I reach work, I give him money and shut the door behind me. Yet another uncomfortable taxi ride to be forgotten soon; we are violated like that everyday, if not me then it's another sister. Those yellow, red, blue cabs are more than just a ride, they are holes where you are stripped down, by dirty minds with dirtier hands…but we still ride them, and pay them for their services. Being victim to a kind of violation that will never be fined against…anywhere…



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