Almost all cab drivers that I have met, who are originally not from the US, have a love affair with India. Ali Dani, who took me to the DFW airport today, was no different. Only, he lead an immensely interesting life.
The conversation started with him talking about how he had rented his 6 bedroom house in Dallas to an Indian family who had frequent visitors. It had saved the family a lot of money and he had, in turn, found a reliable and harmless tenant. He had "retired" a few years ago he said, and drove the cab for 5-6 hours a day. Only so that he had something to keep him occupied. He had taken a year off after retirement to do nothing and had gotten very bored sitting at home. He was so bored that he had taken to cutting the grass in his backyard twice a week! But then he kept a couple of lambs in the backyard which ate all the grass and he was jobless again. I don't know how much of it was true, but it made for an interesting conversation so I didn't interrupt him.
"I go fishing on the White Rock Lake", he says. "I have my spot. I take a tent and my radio and sit there all day long. Sometimes I go to another lake which is far from Dallas. It's an old radio. I also get an Indian channel here. They play Indian songs."
His 28 year old son lives in Boston. Working with an insurance firm. But he wants to become a criminal lawyer. He visits Dallas more often now since his girlfriend is here - Ali says with a smile. His other son is studying at SMU and wants to be a CPA. I ask him where he's from and how long has he been in the US. "Iraq.", he says. "15 years. But I've been in Dallas for only 6. I was in Seattle before that."
My curiosity heightened at this, I asked him what he was doing in Seattle.
"I was a lawyer for the UN", he says nonchalantly. I'm in half a mind to believe him but for entertainment's sake, I urge him. "Very interesting.", I say.
"Yes, it was a lot of travel. My body couldn't take it anymore so I retired."
"So, where were you before Seattle."
"I had to travel between New York and Seattle a lot. But I started with the UN in Geneva. Moved to Oslo for a few years. Brussels. Lot of travel, man. This was in the 80s. So they had different currencies. I was so exhausted that I wouldn't know where I was or what currency to use. Ha Ha."
"I've been to India too. Calcutta and Delhi."
"When", I ask.
"1989 and 2002. India is a very nice country. Nice people. Always ready to help. And I love the food. In England too, they love Indian food"
"Yes, I know. Chicken Tikka Masala is their national dish, I've heard"
"Ya, you're right. And the naan. It's so soft and tasty"
The customary Indian food chit chat behind us, he goes on to talk about his experience negotiating with Colombian officials on the Colombia, Venezuela border. And that Australia has fewer women than men so you're lucky to have a girlfriend there! He loves China too and thinks people are very polite there since the shopkeepers give back change with both hands and bow their heads. Also that he had been friends with a Chinese girl over the internet and she had come to receive him at the airport when he had gone there.
By this time, I'm just listening to him speak without asking any questions.
"So would you come back to Dallas", he asks after getting to know about my internship.
"Maybe." I say, realizing that we're at the airport.
"Alright man. Here is the US Airways Departure. Stay healthy and come to Dallas sometime again."
"Thanks. It's been great talking."