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The conversation with the cabbie in KL

The conversation with the cabbie in KL

It wasn’t uncommon to find out that the first thing a taxi driver would ask you as soon as you got into his or her cab was “where are you from?”. This was a bit of a struggle for Jamal. Where he had come from, people don’t just query you “where are you from?” There was the usual expectation of exchange of pleasantries. A little bit of “Hello, good morning, how are you today and so forth.”

The Grab cabbie had just arrived and Jamal jumped in with his family.

“Hello” Jamal said with a smile and “Hi” was the response without a single smile. Majority of the cabbies that Jamal encountered in KL were not the friendliest of people.

“How many minutes to Batu Caves?” Jamal asked.

“Oh only thirty minutes without traffic jam.”

The drive was silent except for the tune that was playing from the radio. Then the driver blurted “You, from where?”

Jamal said “from Heaven.”

“From where?” he repeated the question.

Jamal repeated “from Heaven”

“Oh, I have never heard of that country?”

“Well, now you have heard of it.”

“Which city?” his curiosity arising.

“Four Square City, Halleluya Avenue.”

“Oh I see” he said.

He didn’t see anything. He paused and was in deep thought. Then he said “is your wife from there too?”

Jamal laughed and he continued “My wife is from hell.”

There was such a fit of laughter in the car. “I need someone to help me cross her over from hell to Heaven” he continued.

“Can you help me” he asked Jamal?

“I am afraid I couldn’t right now.”

“Why not?”

“Because there is a gulf between the two countries.”

“Now tell me where did you fly from to Kuala Lumpur?”

“Abu Dhabi.”

“Where is that?”

“You have never heard of Abu Dhabi?”


“Did you study geography at school?”

“Yes I did. But I was not very smart. I cannot remember what the teacher taught me then. Me, I was stubborn at school then.”

“I see. You were not smart then and you still are not smart now. I would have thought that as a cabbie, you would have met different people and would have learnt so much from them?”

“Unfortunately I haven’t. Been too busy solving life’s problems. So, where is Abu Dhabi?”


“What does that stand for?”

“United Arab Emirates, a country in the Middle East.”

“I see. Arab Emirates.”


“Have you heard of Dubai?” Jamal asked.

“Oh yes, Dubai, I have heard of Dubai. Me I carry many people from Dubai. They give me plenty tip sometimes.  So, U.A.E is in Dubai?”

“No, you are so thick.”

“Me I am not thick. People say I am slim.”

“Yes you are slim.”

“Then, why you say me thick?”

“Because you, your head like basket. It’s like trying to scoop water with a basket. We need to install some processor in your brain to process some simple algorithm.”

The cabbie smiled and said “This is too much for me. My English too little.”

“I told you U.A.E country and you said Dubai in UAE?”

The cabbie smiled and then laughed. “That’s why me say I am not smart” he concluded.

Jamal brought out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped some perspiration from his face.

“My car very small, air conditioner full. Still very hot.”

“What did the weatherman say about today?”

“Oh today 35 degrees, very hot.”

“it’s not too hot. Just that your car small and the power small. What’s the engine size of your car?”


“Aha, there you go. Very small engine size. Five of us in the car plus 35 degrees outside, your car can’t cope.”

“Yes I am planning to buy a bigger car when I have big money. The A.C will be very cold in the new car.”

“Your country hot?”

“Yes, hot like KL?”

“Hotter. Sometimes it goes up to 50 degrees Celsius.”

“50 degrees?”

“Yes. I like it best that time because that is when I eat my best food.”

“What this food?”

“Sun baked food like sun baked eggs and sausages, sun dried fruits, sun fried eggs, sun baked plantain, sun roasted beef.”

“Can you order these foods from a restaurant?”

“Yes. You can, But I prepare my own food myself.”

“This is the first time me hear of this. What does it taste like?”

“Yummy. For me it saves me a lot of energy bills because during the summer months, I cook with sun energy?”

“Is this not the same as solar energy?” the cabbie asked.

“This is the smartest question you have asked me today.”

“Really?” with a big fat grin on his face.

“Yes. Solar energy is when you store sun energy up and convert sun energy into electrical energy to light lamps, power homes and offices. But sun energy you use it directly, no storing, just direct on what you want to use it for.”

“Give me an example?”

“Put a pan of oil outside the sun, the pan of oil gets heated up and you fry your food in it using sun energy. You put your pan outside and crack an egg and pop in the pan and the sun bakes it up.”

The cabbie laughed out so loudly.

“You can actually do this?”

“Yes, you can and that is why it is my favourite season.”

By this time, they had arrived the Batu Caves and Jamal paid him off and the man said “are you going to use sun energy to walk up the steps of Batu Caves?”

“Yes. I will use sun energy to go up the stairs and what if it rains and no sun?’

“I told you, me not smart. See you, bye!”

“No, hold on. My change.”

“You, don’t give tips. Dubai people give me plenty tips before.”

“Me, I don’t give tips. My change please.”

“Ah, you stingy man.”

“Yes me, stingy man.”


Uwem Mbot Umana©2019


  1. A hilarious one indeed. To think that a cabbie who would have carried lots of people would know some popular places in the world. The writer clearly demonstrated the intellectual difference between Jamal and the cab man. Jamal was hoping to get to his destination in peace and quiet without the usual interrogation of his place of origin but the conversation they both had was an evidence of how low someone’s IQ can be but despite the insults, it was all jokes between them both.

    What I would have loved to understand better is Jamal’s place of origin and how he actually cooks with sun energy?
    Plus, why couldn’t he just tip the man?

    After such a while, it was nice to have a laugh.


  2. The story has only gone to prove what many of us already know that it takes all sorts to make the world and an attribute of intelligence these days for the average man requires that he has the variety of skills to handle any type of human being that comes his way and I want to believe that the cabbie tried in this respect to relate with the arrogant Jamal that he had to carry.Much as Jamal tried to make him feel small he maintained a measure of civility towards him that made him to take him safely to where he was going.That as a Cabbie he knew how to do it well endeared him to the many passengers he had carried in the past who rewarded him with tips.I want to believe however that his encounter with Jamal would have re-inforced his experience if he had any that you cannot win them all.There will always be the exception to the rule and one Jamal should not be the mirror to judge anybody

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