A couple of nights ago I had to take a taxi to an event. I love chatting to the taxi drivers here in Dubai where I currently live, as every one has a fascinating life story to share, whether funny or tragic. However, this week, I met a man whose story and approach to life were so uplifting and joyful that I haven’t stopped thinking about him all week.
Khalid has been driving a taxi in Dubai for 24 years. Having seen the city grow exponentially over that time, from a sandy small town to the modern metropolis it is today, he had lots of interesting anecdotes about the “old days”. Yet when I asked about his family back in Pakistan, he glowed with joy. He told me about his oldest daughter, who achieved her MBA last year, got married and has just had a baby boy. He proudly showed me photos, with one hand on the wheel and the other precariously scrolling through his phone’s camera roll, a broad smile plastered across his face. I got to share in his daughter’s beautiful wedding photographs and heard about the three days of celebrations they enjoyed. He told me about his first son, who is just finishing his mechanical engineering degree at Pakistan’s top university and who has been awarded a full scholarship to study for his Masters degree in Germany or Australia – he can’t decide which to choose. Finally, I heard about his youngest twin sons, the brightest of all his children apparently, who are top of their class and who constantly switch between first and second place in examination results and compete for the top spot endlessly. They are in their final year of school and will go to university next academic year. Khalid will continue to work until their education is complete and then he wants to retire home to Pakistan.
He spoke of his wife, who he met on his wedding day, having trusted in his parents to choose the best bride for him and told me with love and respect in his voice that he was so lucky to have been able to marry the “best woman in Pakistan” who is entirely responsible for shaping his children into the fine young people that they have become. He said he only provided the money – the rest was all down to her.
He concluded that his life is complete. His purpose was to provide for and give the best opportunities to his children and he has achieved that, so there is nothing more that he wants.
The entire conversation was liberally sprinkled with ‘Alhamdulillah (thanks be to god)” at the end of most phrases and, whilst I don’t share Khalid’s religious beliefs, I could see that he feels truly blessed and has an enormous sense of gratitude for the life he has led and for his intelligent and hardworking children. They must surely have been inspired by the example he has set them over the years. He was a gentle, humble, thoughtful man and he had what I can only describe as an aura of contentment around him. It was joyful to be in his company and I was genuinely disappointed to reach my destination.
I have thought about Khalid a lot over the last couple of days as his words and manner have stayed with me. His acceptance of his role in life and his view of his ‘purpose’ was inspiring. He didn’t long for material goods, he didn’t complain about driving a taxi for almost a quarter of a century and he didn’t protest at having missed out on being with his children as they grew, as he wanted to keep working to provide for their education. It is so rare to meet someone who is genuinely content with all aspects of their life and at peace within themselves. I know I would be the first to admit that I am not. However, this chance meeting has had a profound effect on me – it’s hard to explain. There was true joy in his contentment and I’m working on changing my mindset to be more accepting and grateful in my own life. He may not have had much money, but Khalid was the richest man I’ve met in Dubai. Alhamdulillah.