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Street Talk: Passions of a Pashtoon

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Assad, whose name means ‘lion’ in Arabic, told Khaleej Times that he used to write for a magazine called Shanazargona (Pashto word for rainbow) before coming to Dubai.

Pashtoon expat Assad Ali Khan, 31, has been plying the streets of Dubai as a taxi driver for more than two years. He likes his job – it brings food to the table and he is able to support his family back home. But he is also a man of letters and if there is one thing he is very passionate about, that is writing poetry in Pashto.

Assad, whose name means ‘lion’ in Arabic, told Khaleej Times that he used to write for a magazine called Shanazargona (Pashto word for rainbow) before coming to Dubai. He said he writes well in Pashto, the Indo-Iranian language spoken mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. He writes on various topics but his favourite subject is friendship.

And he recited a poem in Pashto which roughly reads like this:

“If we are going in the same way

Let us sit first so we can learn from each other

Nobody can solve a problem by running away

Come sit with me and we can help each other.”

“Friendship is important wherever you are. Life in an ultra-modern metropolis like Dubai is full of pressure, unlike in my home town in Pakhtunkhwa (Land of Pakhtuns), near Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where my family is. Thankfully I have many Pashtun friends who cheer me up and give me support when I feel down,” said Assad, who lives in a one-room villa in Satwa with his friends.

Assad, who holds a diploma from Kurram Polytechnic Institute in Bannu, Pakistan, said he is also satisfied and proud of his job because he gets to meet many people from different backgrounds and culture.

“I love learning new words,” he said. “I may not be able to speak a new language fluently, but at least, I’m learning basic conversational skills which helps me in my line of work,” added Assad, who speaks Urdu and English aside from Pashto.

“Dubai is a land of many tongues and for someone like me, it is advantageous to know other languages like ‘Kumusta ka?’ (How are you?) in Filipino to ‘buongiorno’ (good morning) and Dove vuoi andare? (Where do you want to go?) in Italian,” Assad proudly said.

“It is also good customer service if you know how to speak, even a little, in their own language,” he added.

Assad is a busy man who works every day from 5am until 5pm. His own definition of ‘me-time’ is reading newspapers and waxing poetic especially at night when he thinks of his family back home and his plans of someday running his own limousine business.

He said: “I always save something from my monthly salary. I hope to return home for good in a few year’s time and have more time to read and write Pashto poetry.”

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Interviewed by Angel Tesorero. Street talk is a weekly column to get a glimpse of people’s lives in UAE

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