Selecting a good driver
Shakir Lakhani
JULY 12, 2019

If you are over 50 and have been living in a major city like Karachi or Lahore for many years, it’s only natural for your heart to have been affected. Particularly if you have spent most of your time seated the whole day, and you are one of the millions of Pakistanis who think exercising is a waste of time and should be avoided at all costs. More so if you are a smoker and eat fatty foods as if it’s your last meal on earth. So you shouldn’t be surprised if one day you’re taken to a hospital screaming your head off due to the intense pain in your chest. In about a week, you’ll be poorer by more than a million rupees (depending on the hospital). But it’s after you’ve had the angioplasty or triple bypass surgery that your troubles begin.

The doctors will request your family members to not let you drive. It’s in the national interest, they will say. If the old man even happens to have a mild accident, he will have another attack and the car will go out of control and his driving will result in many deaths and injuries. Thus, you now have to employ a driver to do something that you’ve been doing since you were in your teens. No problem, you tell yourself. With so much unemployment, it should be easy to find a good driver. You couldn’t be more wrong.

Until ten years back, there was no way of knowing whether a driver’s license was fake or genuine. But now, with the presence of license verification apps, it takes a minute to determine if the applicant’s license is genuine. You will be shocked to find out that seven or eight out of ten drivers in Karachi have fake licenses. This also explains why traffic policemen in Karachi are so wealthy. Every time they come across a driver with a fake license, they increase their bank wealth by five hundred rupees. But it’s the attitude of the drivers that shocks you more. ‘Why should it matter if the license is genuine or fake?’, they ask. You have to be patient and explain that in case of an accident, the insurance company will refuse to pay for the damage done to your car if it was being driven by a fake license holder at the time. They look at you like you’re from another planet. It’s like they’re asking themselves, “Insurance, what’s that?”

Finally, after interviewing seven or eight candidates, you find one with a genuine license and hire him. If you think your troubles are over, you’re mistaken.

In the first two or three days, you find that your driver is like most drivers in Karachi who believe that only fools obey traffic rules. So, you almost have a heart attack when he drives breezily through red lights and is amazed when you protest. You tell your family members that his erratic driving will give you a heart attack, defeating the very purpose for which you hired him. Your wife and children tell you to use your smartphone for reading newspapers online or see what’s going on in Twitter and not look at him.

Your driver is most likely to be someone in his thirties who already has seven children and because he’s been told that birth control is a heinous sin, he plans to have many more. His own father (besides having nine or ten children himself) probably has as many brothers and sisters, and each of them also has many children. So your driver has at least fifty or sixty cousins, besides many uncles, aunts and nephews. By the way, as there is no word for “cousin” in Urdu or the local languages, all such cousins are called “brothers” or “sisters”. Now among all these relatives, there will be days when one of them is likely to be sick and has to be taken to hospital, or may even die. So, in about a couple of months, after your driver has taken six or seven days off because one of his brothers is sick or has died, you ask him how many brothers he has. That’s when you find out that when he says “brother”, he often means “cousin”.
But that’s not all. Every time one of his relatives has to marry (which happens at least once a month), he wants a loan. After about six months, he has borrowed an amount equivalent to more than a month’s salary (which you’ll never get back). You find yourself wondering why you shouldn’t sack him, but no, your family members won’t hear of it (they remember what the doctor said). You fervently hope that the police come and arrest him for something he did many years back (like killing some of his relatives in a property dispute). But no such luck, until one day he wants to leave for a couple of months. This time your family members support you. You let him go and swear you’ll never hire a driver again. As for that warning, the doctors gave after turning you into a pauper, to hell with it. Don’t worry, you were driving on those days when he was attending funerals and marriages, and nothing happened- you didn’t die nor did you kill anyone. So go ahead, live peacefully and stay away from drivers as much as you can.

The writer is an engineer, a former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, an industrialist, and has been associated with the petroleum, chemical industries for many years. He tweets @shakirlakhani