Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Taxi Cab Chronicles

A subset of Subway Chronicles, Taxi Cab Chronicles deals with the spontaneous interactions I often have with the man behind the wheel. Unlike Subway Chronicles, there is often a grand lesson to be learned.

2:00am Thursday evening/very early Friday. I’m standing near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge and I am well aware of the hour as well as my pigmentation. The latter often serves as a deterrent for many a cab driver in search of potential customer.

After several cabs that are clearly “on-duty” pass by, a gentlemen signals over to cross lanes in an attempt to get my service. I bring my frost-bit hand down to open the door and proceed to greet him.

“Good evening, Joralemon and Henry St. please”
“Yes boss”

A few minutes pass and I begin to regain the feeling in my lips. I look at the driver’s identification on the window that divides us. His given name is Lovepreet. I lean forward towards the divider and ask him how he pronounces his name. His accent is at first difficult to understand, so I have to ask him to repeat himself several times. I only stop asking when I realize that perhaps it is I who is not doing the listening. I close my eyes and I’m able to understand.

I want to find out what he thinks about love. Intuitively, and without me asking, he tells me that his name has nothing to do with love but that it is a common Indian name. He goes on to describe how his mother looked through the Adi Granth (holy scriptures) and how Lovepreet came from the first letter of the first word she saw. Fascinated, I ask him to tell me more.

“Though many Americans mistake us for Muslims, we who wear turbans and sport beards are called Sikhs.”
“What is the philosophy of your religion?”
“Among other things, we believe that there is only one God, every morning we rise at 4am to pray, we give 10% of what we have to the needy, and we do not cut our beards or our hair, the later of which we cover with turbans.”

I listen attentively and acknowledging my curiosity he drops knowledge like precipitation telling me as much as he can about the youngest of world religions.

I continue with my questions.

“How has religion affected your life, my friend?”
“Well, I don’t eat meat, and I don’t drink alcohol.”
“Why don’t you eat meat?”
“Because I don’t believe I have the authority to take life. Only God has that authority”

As we pull up to the front door of my apartment, Lovepreet grabs his pen and jots down a web address on my receipt. He tells me that if I’m interested in learning more about Sikhism that this would be a good place to start.

I thank him for his kindness in sharing his religion with me. I leave his cab overwhelmed with joy because we could have traveled from Manhattan to Brooklyn in silence, but instead something powerful was exchanged.

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