People Speak

Published August 31, 2019
Zahida Kazmi, 67, driver
Zahida Kazmi, 67, driver

“My parents married me off at the age of 12. I know it might sound a little strange but back then this was the norm, especially in my village in Abbottabad. Besides my parents were poor and could not afford my education.

Soon after my marriage I left for Karachi as my husband worked in the navy. However, he was martyred in the 1971 war and I became a widow before I even turned 20. With young children to look after, I started searching for work as none of my relatives were in a position to take our responsibility. I got a job of a housekeeper at a hospital. From there I switched to another hospital and continued working at various hospitals for the next five years. Then I joined the Sindh Secretariat as a telephone operator where I worked for nine years.

I shifted to Rawalpindi in 1987 as I felt the need to be close to my hometown. When all efforts to find a job ended in failure, I decided to become a taxi driver. I had learnt driving in Karachi so I only needed a vehicle. A family friend gave me his cab which I drove till 1992. It was during this time that Nawaz Sharif’s ‘Yellow Cab Scheme’ was launched. I also applied for one. When the relevant authorities came to know that I was the first woman taxi driver, I was given the yellow cab absolutely free.

For many years, I was a regular at the airport. This way I did not have to roam around the city looking for passengers. During my time as a cab driver, I travelled to many cities.

I stopped driving the cab after I suffered brain haemorrhage. It was a miracle that I survived but I was confined to bed for almost a year. Now I drive a school van on a salary of Rs15,000.

Sometimes, when I look back, I myself cannot believe what all I have gone through and how hard I worked to raise my children. But I guess I had no other choice.”

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2019

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