Inspiration Pakistan: The Google Taxi Cab Author

Posted on April 10, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Books, Economy & Development, People
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Adil Najam

This is a somewhat old picture and you will find lots of references and copies of this picture on the internet, mostly about the innovative marketing done by this Taxi Cab driver in Pakistan, Asif Hussain Shah. The marketing is indeed innovative, but to me that is really not the part of this story that is truly inspiring. The story – certainly for him – is not that he wants you to search for him and his cab on Google, the story is that he wants you to read the book – For Hire – he wrote about his life as a Taxi-Cab driver in Pakistan.

To me, at least, writing a book always trumps being on Google! But Google can help you find more about this very interesting gentleman. And that is exactly what I set out to do.

The most interesting insights were in these two news reports that feature Asif Hussain Shah. And its really the portions where he is speaking that are most gripping within this. This is clearly a thoughtful man; the think man’s cabbie, if you will! A man who has looks at the world around him, tries to make sense of what he sees, and then conveys it clearly to those around him. Exactly the type of man you would expect, and want, to be an author.

For Hire, is a short (120 page) book in Urdu which is a collection of 35 stories by Asif based on his experiences as a Taxi Cab driver in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area. Supposedly, there is an English version in the works, but I am not sure if it is out and available yet.

Some more information about Asif Hussain Shah and his book from this news report in the Daily Times from February 2009 (by Mahtab Bashir):

Asif Hussain Shah, a taxi driver, has written a unique book titled ‘For Hire’ to relate his experiences on the wheel. Feroz Sons published the book in January this year. Shah told Daily Times he quit studies at Grade 12 but his quest for learning still raged. “I drive taxi to make ends meet. Sometimes I feel on the verge of break-down and sometimes exhausted. All the same, I decided to pen down my experiences in the form of short stories and I did it,” Asif said.

Born in Lalamusa, Asif was a plumber when he got married and came to Rawalpindi in 1993. Then he took to driving taxi, which he felt adventurous. “Time is money for me. I don’t while away on roadsides, taking tea and smoking. Rather I read people and note down my experiences,” he said. He said, “I have met some very interesting passengers over 15 years of my experience as a cabbie. I thought why not write short stories on them in simple language and then I got down to it. Slowly I ended up in writing this 120-page book.” Shah is an inspiration for common men, who think they are lost. Shah tells them no they are not. Having written a successful book, he is not going to leave his profession as a cabbie. He said whatever he was today was because of this profession.

Before moving on, and coming back to the marketing ideas of Asif Ali Shah, I noted that in the video clips and pictures the taxi cab itself has gone through various transformations. This gives me more evidence of a fertile and innovative mind, constantly trying to improve and perfect that “which works.” In fact, I found these two pictures of the cab – found on the blog of our friend Shirazi – to be wonderfully revealing of his innovative and fertile mind.

An updated news story story, by the same reporter, and also in the Daily Times from June of 2009, gives some updates on the story, but I cannot seem to find anything on whether any of these plans got realized. I certainly hope they did:

Amidst all the troubling news around especially, the contemporary wave of terrorism and extremism, few of people are very optimistic to reclaim the old glory of the country with their positive attitude. Asif Hussain Shah, a cab driver is among such people who sanguinely hope that through positive thinking and focusing on concerned areas, they could bring about a positive change in the lives of the people. Earlier, in January 2009 he wrote an interesting book comprising 35 short stories based on his experiences on the roads of Islamabad-Rawalpindi as a cabbie.

Now this 41 years old man is planning to travel to UK by road in his taxi where he intends to launch an English version of his Urdu book published by Feroze Sons (private) Limited. Capturing the tales of dreams, desires and struggles of a common man, Shah has compiled the moving account of life around him in his first book titled For Hire– the first ever book written by a cabbie in Pakistan. Being a taxi driver, he takes us on a ride through pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow on the road of life in a quest for self-confidence.

Talking to Daily Times, Shah stated he studied till 12th grade before he finally entered practical life, but his quest for learning never ended. “While trying to make ends meet and providing life’s basic necessities to my four young children, I myself was on the verge of breaking down through struggles, but then I decided to take up a pen and capture real life stories happening all around me,” said Shah. Born in Lalamusa, Shuja got expertise in making water-boring machines. When he got married in Rawalpindi he made up his mind to live in this city in the year 1993. For one year, he remained glued to his work as a water-boring machine maker. “It was good, but I am a man who believes in hard work,” said Shah.

He said the idea of writing a book in Urdu sprung into my mind. “I felt that I have met various passengers, with whom I have exchanged views on a number of topics during my 15 years of cab driving in the city. I thought why should not I write these short stories in simple Urdu and I started work on it,” he said while showing his 120 pages book. “It is because the word ‘Hire’ is linked to taxi and a cab driver, that is why I’ve given my book the title ‘For Hire’, he said, adding, “I am neither a scholar nor an intellectual, but I see and feel life all around me and have tried to capture those moments of truth in my own words.” The effort gave me an immense strength and enabled me to fight my depression away, looking towards the future with a new hope and zeal, said Shah whose nomination has been submitted to Guinness Book of the World Records.

Based on ground realities and facts just the way Shah comes across in his day-to-day sojourn, he has tried to convey to his readers a message that ‘they can do anything if they set their aims high’. Despite becoming a writer, Shah said he would never give up his profession of a cab driver, because whatever he was today was just because of this profession. Shah said perhaps it was for the first time in Pakistan that a taxi driver had authored a book. Shah said so far he had not asked for any help from any of government department and faced all the hardships during his effort to write the book at his own. He said despite those suffering, he intended to write another book on ‘Traffic Reforms’. He said though Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) had made traffic flow smooth, no such reformation in traffic was being witnessed.

If any of our readers know whether these plans materialized, do please let us know.

21 responses to “Inspiration Pakistan: The Google Taxi Cab Author”

  1. Jaam Yasir says:

    iam really pleased and overwhelmed after reading this article and about the author asif hussain and more of it iam so proud of the initiative taken by this wonderful man, i will definitely look forward to read his book “for hire”

    Rock on!!!

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