Wed night's cabbie from the airport at 00:30am, was quite humbling.
He drove an immaculate vehicle adorned with colourful little trinkets...
In the silence of our journey I could hear the faint sounds of a phone ringing...over & over....and over.
I asked him if he wasn't answering it because of me.
"Yes Mam...some customers don't like it very much."
Well it's fine by me if u would like to answer it - i said - sounds like this person really wants to get hold of you..
"Thank you Mam", he smiled, "You are very good..." he was beaming at me through his rear view mirror.
"It's my wife.."
Well she obviously needs to speak to you ..
"Yes Mam, we haven't seen each other for 7 years."
Pardon? 7 years?
What? I don't understand..how? Why?
Then he tells me his story...
He escaped his village in Pakistan after the Taliban invaded and killed his brother.
He arrived into Australia by boat as a refugee and was taken to the Christmas Island detention centre.
He was there for 1 year and then sent to Darwin for another 6months.
He was not allowed to return to his own country because of his refugee status...
"I can only return to Pakistan once I become an Australian citizen," he says, "Then I can go anywhere," he smiles.
He said the detention centre was like a prison.. but he smiles as he tells about his good teacher who taught him English and some "cultures of Australia like how to say hello to people and be friendly..and how to get a job"
He felt these helped him assimilate over the last few years working here.
So much gratitude...
He started as a kitchen hand and then realised he would learn more English if he drove a cab.
He has been doing this now for 2 and a half years.
"I like very much my job."
Your car is immaculate.
"Thank you Mam, I clean it before I start every time. And I can give rides some times to people if they cannot afford it."
Really, you do that?
"Yes Mam, if I can see they need. Australia has helped me so much, so it is nice to give back."
So much gratitude..
So what was the secret to keep your relationship alive? How often could you speak?
"Oh yes Mam. In the detention centre we had 1 call per week..and after that, we Skype all the time.."
You mean every day?
"Oh yes Mam..every day."
And then, as if he knew he was revealing the ultimate punchline he shares with me;
"And she calls me now so many times because she is so happy.. so happy because last week I receive my citizenship and I am going to see her. I have already booked my ticket. I go in January."
I'm speechless by this point.
Wow, I utter..Congratulations..your patience has finally been rewarded.
Do you have children?
"Oh no, not yet Mam..but I want..many children," he beams.
He plans to take 3 months holiday with her, in Pakistan...and buy her all the prettiest things his money can buy.
"And then," he says, with such a warmth I feel like we're old friends, "And then I return with her to Australia, and start a new life. Together with my wife in Australia."
We smile at each other through the rear view mirror...
I have forgotten how tired I am when I leave his vehicle. We shake hands and I wave him farewell.