ISTABSIR: TAXI TALES

ISTABSIR is a photo column that runs weekly in The National. The title is derived from an Arabic verb which means to attentively reflect on and contemplate with respectful consideration. Unlike most photo columns The National runs a photo essay per column. Each Sunday, the series receives an entire page (w/o ads) in the news section of our publication.





TAXI TALES
Images & Text: Rich-Joseph Facun

An orderly line of taxis fashion themselves along the road in front of Safeer Mall in Ajman. A Pakistani man in his early thirties, second in the row of cabs, leans causally against his vehicle awaiting his next fare. Sahibzada Ahmad Mehmood, is day dreaming of days not too long ago when he owned and operated a frozen food packaging plant in Pakistan. After a bomb exploded his business was left in a rubble. Mehmood recalls, “In Pakistan, I was a big man, and now I don’t feel like a big man.” 
Fast forward over a year later. Today he is peddling the streets, fare after fare, striving to meet his daily quota. Like many expatriates, he is working to support his wife and three children who remain in their homeland. 
A brief ride through the city, with Mehmood as my guide, unraveled two tales. One of man defining a new way of life and the other of the simple scenic areas throughout Ajman.  
In the Rashedya district orange compact cars, used as training vehicles for potential taxi drivers, dot the landscape. This is where Mehmood spent several months before becoming a certified cab driver. Near the GMC Hospital & Research Center new construction tucked into nooks and crannies pimple the landscape. Quietly, Mehmoods voice drifts over his shoulder and into the backseat. This is a very nice area, he assuringly stated, but the health care at the hospital is out of his price range. He must go elsewhere if he needs a doctor. 
The ride continues. At the corniche a picture perfect sky complete with puffy fairy-tale clouds complements the saturated azure water and yellow lifeguard stand. 
Mehmood gathers his thoughts and talks about having to take care in who he picks up along the beach on the weekends. Quite often some younger people don’t pay their fare. Afterwards, his voice pauses, then faintly begins again “I’m not greedy, I’m just a man who wants a respectable job.”