'Hey, Taxi Boy': A Son On The Lessons He Learned From His Cabdriver Dad

Mar 16, 2018
Originally published on March 16, 2018 7:17 am

Mohammad Ashraf Faridi left Pakistan for the U.S. in the 1980s. He settled in New York City, and his wife and three children joined him almost a decade later. By then, he was earning his living behind the wheel of a taxicab.

Faridi came to StoryCorps with his son — named Muhammad — who talked about growing up with a dad who's a livery taxi driver.

"You used to go to work and come back home around 2 a.m.," the younger Faridi recalls. In the morning, his father would send him to clean the car. "I would vacuum, take out the mats, smack them against the pole to get the dust out."

He remembers one of those mornings in particular, when he was 14 or 15.

"A kid, someone from the neighborhood just began making fun of me: 'Hey! Cab boy! Taxi boy!'

That's one of those experiences that made me embarrassed."

Money was tight for the family, and Muhammad wanted to pitch in. When he was old enough to get a taxi license, he approached his father.

"You said, 'I want to help you,' " Mohammad Ashraf Faridi recalls.

So father and son drove together for a couple of days. "You showed me the streets, bridges, everything," Muhammad says.

He continued to drive part-time through college, then law school.

After graduating, Muhammad landed a clerkship with a federal district court judge. The judge was in his 80s, so the young man would sometimes help him carry his briefcase. One day, the judge called for a car service, and when the driver arrived, it was the elder Faridi.

Muhammad recalls putting the briefcase in his father's car. "We waved at each other. And you drove the judge home."

The following day, over lunch, Muhammad told the judge who that driver was. "The judge was very upset at me that I didn't introduce him to you," he says.

Muhammad admits that back then, he didn't like talking about his family. "We don't come from Park Avenue, and I was embarrassed that you drove a taxicab," he says. "But not anymore. As I grew older, I'm proud. You know, I think you've done a great job."

"The bottom line is this," says Mohammad Ashraf Faridi, "I got everything in my life — my friends, my family. I am happy."

"And in my life," his son says, "if I can emulate that by a fraction, I would think that I've lived a good life."

Today, Muhammad Faridi is a partner in a New York City law firm. Occasionally, when he needs a ride, he'll give his dad a call.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Aisha Turner and Danielle Roth.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's time now for StoryCorps. Today - a conversation between a father and a son. Mohammad Ashraf Faridi left Pakistan in the 1980s and settled in New York City. His family joined him almost a decade later. By then, Mohammad was earning a living as a cab driver. At StoryCorps, his oldest son, also named Muhammad, talked about growing up as the son of a taxi driver.

MUHAMMAD FARIDI: You used to go to work and come back home around 2 a.m. So in the morning, you used to send me to go clean your car. I would vacuum, take out the mats, smack them against the pole to get the dust out. And then I was maybe 14, 15, and I was doing that and a kid from the neighborhood just began making fun of me - hey, cab boy, taxi boy. That's one of those experiences that made me embarrassed.

MOHAMMAD ASHRAF FARIDI: At that time, my financial position was no good, so you said I want to help you.

MUHAMMAD FARIDI: After your 18th birthday, you can get your taxi license. We drove together for a couple of days.

MOHAMMAD ASHRAF FARIDI: Right.

MUHAMMAD FARIDI: You showed me the streets, bridges, everything. And I started college and went to law school, and I was still working part time driving. And then I began working for a federal district court judge. The judge at that time was in his late 80s, so I used to help him carry his briefcase down. And one day, the judge calls for a car service, and you came to pick him up.

MOHAMMAD ASHRAF FARIDI: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD FARIDI: I put the briefcase in the car. We waved at each other, and you drove the judge home. The next day, the judge and me, we were having lunch. I said the driver who picked you up yesterday was my father. The judge was very upset at me that I didn't introduce him to you. I, at that point, never really liked talking about my family. We don't come from Park Avenue. And I was embarrassed that you drove a taxicab - but not anymore. As I grew older, I'm proud. You know, I think you've done a great job.

MOHAMMAD ASHRAF FARIDI: My bottom line is this - I got everything in my life, my friends, my family. I am happy.

MUHAMMAD FARIDI: And in my life, if I can emulate that by a fraction, I would think that I've lived a good life.

MARTIN: That was Mohammad Ashraf Faridi and his son, Muhammad Faridi. The younger Muhammad is now a partner in a New York City law firm. Occasionally, when he needs a ride, he gives his dad a call. Their full conversation will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.