January 19, 2023

A taxi ride of empathy

Philani talks about his experiences as a regular taxi passanger

It's not every day where you see taxi drivers and passengers showing compassion to others. Who can blame them though? With constant blackouts, our ailing economy and people having have lost jobs after Covid-19, most people just want to keep to themselves. But my taxi ride from my hometown of Eshowe in KwaZulu Natal to Johannesburg was a defining moment for me. I learnt that not all is doom and gloom in Mzansi, people still have empathy for each other.



As a person who rely heavily on taxis, all I wanted for that 9-hour trip was to seat at the back, go through my phone. On the next seat there was a woman carrying a child aged around 3 or 4. After we drove past Volksrust towards Newcastle the little girl asked her mother "ukuthi "uphi uGogo" loosely translate, where is my grandmother. "Your grandmother is in heaven' the mother answered the girl. "uzobuya nini uGogo, ngiyamkhumbula" (When will she be back because I miss her) the girl replied.



The taxi went silent immediately for a moment. We could all tell that the gogo's passing was recent as the mother held back her tears. What amazed me was the taxi driver who turned down the volume as he was blasting uKhuzani Mpungose's popular song Ijele. I reached out to the baby, but she refused, I then pulled my phone out and I showed her candy crush game, and she came to me. When I held her, mother, her mother finally broke down and cried. The woman who was sitting next to the mother gave her a tight hug.



This reminded me of when my mother Muhle Makhathini passed in September 2018. While I was on my way to the office to report to my boss that I had lost my mother, tears flew down my cheeks. One lady gave me tissue to wipe my tears away while the other offered me water to drink. Everyone in that taxi comforted me while asking what was wrong. My magic moment was when the driver turned down the volume and continued to drive until we reached Eshowe, I knew then that a lot of people still had empathy for the other.


Back to my recent taxi ride, one woman asked all of us in a taxi to pray together for the lady and her child for healing. That trip was a defining moment for me, and it made me realise that we still had ubuntu. By the time we pulled over at the gas station and the girl was sleeping. What touched me the most was that about 5 people went out for refreshments, at the petrol station and when everyone came back, they started sharing chips and sweets like we all knew each other. This reminded me that Ubuntu goes a long way.


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