Our adventures with FXs and Mehrans in Pakistan

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Our adventures with FXs and Mehrans in Pakistan

Hakan Celik, a former PakTurk teacher, wrote about the difficulties he faced due to his weak Urdu and English when he first went to Pakistan and how he bargained with taxi drivers.

Certain features beautify and enrich a country. If I say language and culture are the main features which save countries or regions from monotony in style by adding colour, most of our readers will probably agree with me.

The ‘Subcontinent’ in South Asia must be at the forefront by its linguistic and cultural richness. I could live in different countries and continents, but I could see no other land fit to hold a candle to the Subcontinent in cultural richness.

Pakistan, as a part of the Subcontinent in South Asia, inherited this legacy and helped it survive to this day. The fusion of different cultures and languages adds to the beauty of Pakistan.

The prominent languages like such as Urdu, Pashto and Balochi spoken in this culturally-rich and colourful country are from the same language family with Kurdish, hailing from the Persian branch of the Indo-European language family. We benefited from the material and moral benefits of this language kinship, besides the benefits of several other kinships.

When I first went to Pakistan, I was not much proficient in spoken English. One day, the principal called me to his office and said, “Sir, you will be working in Islamabad. Most of the parents here speak English; so, make an effort and focus on learning English. You will learn Urdu in time.” I did what the principal said, I focused on English, but I could not learn Urdu well in time. I was simply stuck.

I could not improve my Urdu much, but I knew the numbers above 100 well. Frankly speaking, it was almost the same as Kurdish, my mother tongue: Aik sau (hundred), dau sau (two hundred), teen sau (three hundred) and so on… knowing these numbers left memories with me… and yes, I left those memories behind.

During my tenure in Islamabad, I did not have my own vehicle. I used to shuttle between Sector H-8 and Chak Shahzad, where my school was located, either by the school bus or in taxis.

Is it ever possible for someone who travelled in Suzuki FXs and Suzuki Mehrans to forget those famed taxis?

The time they saw potential passengers standing by the roadside in mornings, they would glide like hawks descending on their prey. Those hunters were difficult people, they knew their trade well, but we were difficult preys too! When he stopped, the driver would wind down the window a little and ask, “Bhai Sahib! Kider ja raha hain?” (Dear brother, where are you going?) and I would usually reply, “Achaa, mein PakTurk Chak Shahzad ja raha hown. Aap pata hain oder?” (Well, I am going to PakTurk in Chak Shehzad. Do you know PakTurk?)

They would immediately say, “Haan, haan! Pata hein, challo!” (Yes, yes! I know, jump in!), but you would not get on until the price was right. Normally it would cost 300 or 400 rupees from my residence to school back then, but those seasoned hunters start negotiations at 700 rupees.

I would say, “Bhai Sahib, yeh kahan hain… Saat sau bahut ziyada, shukriya!” (Dear brother, where is this… Seven hundred is too much, thank you.) Later, he would reduce it to “che sau” (six hundred) and I would still say “Nahin, nahin. Yeh bhi ziyada” (No, no. It’s still much). Finally, we would settle on ‘teen sau‘ (three hundred) or ‘chaar sau‘ (four hundred) rupees.

Anyway, the journey to Chak Shehzad would take 20 minutes and the drivers would wish to start the conversation right away. Yet the conversation could not move beyond a few sentences because I did not have enough Urdu to chat longer. They would be surprised whenever I said I could not speak Urdu and often laugh saying, “You negotiated very well for the taxi fare a little while ago!”

Yes, we could bargain and we knew the numbers well. Knowing Kurdish was very beneficial for people like me who usually travelled by taxi. Those were good days and we will always remember our days with FXs and Mehrans with a smile.

Oh hi there 👋 It’s nice to meet you.

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