Unlikely honour for veteran taxi driver in Dubai


By Muby Asger, Staff Reporter, XPRESS  www.gulfnews.com

Dubai: British expat Rechel Shah was on a mission. She had met a man she describes as an unsung hero. A man whose selfless courage brought tears to her eyes.

    *  Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/XPRESS     * Rechel Shah, right, spent more than five months tracking down taxi driver Iran Badshah, her father figure.
* Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/XPRESS * Rechel Shah, right, spent more than five months tracking down taxi driver Iran Badshah, her father figure.

Unknowingly, she let him slip away. Since that day, she could not rest until her mission to track him down was accomplished.

Theirs was a story that began in March this year when Shah hailed a taxi from Shaikh Zayed Road to New Dubai. “I was in a good mood and felt like striking up a conversation with the taxi driver: a 62-year-old man called Iran Badshah.”

The first thing she noticed were his grubby fingers and how the moonlight shone on his silver-grey hair. “He told me he’d spent the last 37 years working in the UAE so that his eight children in Pakistan could lead a decent life,” says Shah.

Over the next half hour, Badshah spoke and Shah listened. At the end of the journey, she bid the old taxi driver goodbye and stepped out. “The moment I shut that car door, I knew I should have taken his phone number. To me, he was a hero. A man who’d sacrificed his life so that his family could enjoy theirs.

“He told me that in November he would retire and go back to his family. And I walked away without so much as a phone number,” says Shah.

That night, the 25-year-old film lecturer made the decision to honour and celebrate this driver; to allow him to be the face of all those unsung heroes that line the streets of our city.

The only glitch: How to find him again.

No stone unturned

Over the next four months Shah searched high and low. She left no stone unturned. From Facebook requests to calling the transport companies and asking all her friends who took taxis to snoop around, Shah tried it all.

“By the end of July, I’d nearly given up. I thought I was chasing a pipe dream. But that Sunday, everything changed. I woke up knowing that today would be the day when I would find Iran Badshah. Relentlessly pursuing the taxi companies, I refused to put the phone down until they located him. There are only six companies in Dubai. How hard can it be, right? Turns out, it’s nearly impossible. Staff are listed by numbers, not names,” she says. “A few false leads later, a receptionist recalled a 62-year-old taxi driver by that name. Bingo! I knew I had my man,” says Shah.

Once reunited, it was up to Shah to form a rapport with this stranger who had become such a large part of her life. “I would pretend to have work in Deira and take a taxi from JLT to the opposite end of Dubai and back, just for a chance to connect with this man. At first, he thought I was crazy. He kept saying that he was a nobody and why should anyone bother to do anything for him.”

Over time Shah convinced him that she wanted to organise a community event to celebrate him, as a thank you of sorts, for being a faceless hero.

While the intent was well and good, the technicalities proved a tad overwhelming. “I ignored Iran all of September,” says Shah. “I couldn’t face him. I’d promised him a hero’s farewell, and couldn’t even organise a little going-away party. Every door I knocked was slammed on my face. No one wanted to sponsor my event. Unable to show my face, I just wanted to disappear from his horizon. But it hurt. I’d started to care for this man. He was like a father figure. More info