27 September 2010, 9:05 am, Oxford.
[The cab pulls up as I wait for it in the driveway.. the driver is a South Asian]
Driver: Hey mate, that suitcase looks very heavy!
Me: Yeah, well, I’m leaving Oxford…
Driver: Oh, studies over?
Driver: Let me give you a hand…
[We load the suitcase into the boot and sit in the car…]
Driver: Where are you from?
Driver (smiling): Hamaare padosi mulkh se… Hindi aati hai? [From my neighbouring country… Do you know Hindi?]
Me: Haan, bilkul aati hai [Yes, I know the language]
Driver: India mein kahan se hain? [Whereabouts in India?]
Me: Dilli ke paas se [Near Delhi]
[Some traffic comes up ahead and the driver’s attention is now on the road.]
Driver: Dilli vaapas ja rahe hain? [Are you going back to Delhi?]
Me: Nahi, abhi toh London… [No, just to London for now…]
[Some more silence… and then I can’t resist asking the obvious question. I’m pretty sure I already know the answer]
Me: Aap Pakisan se hain? [You’re from Pakistan?]
Driver: Nahi, Kashmir se… [No, from Kashmir…]
[I look up at his rear view mirror in surprise and see his eyes on me.]
Me: Kashmir mein kahan se? [Whereabouts in Kashmir?]
Driver: Rajouri… [It’s a town on the Indian side of the Line of Control]
Me: Achha… yahan kab se hain? [How long have you been here?]
Driver: Kareeban 10 saal se… [About 10 years…]
[I have more questions but the cab pulls into Gloucester Green. The meter shows GBP 6.50, he says 5 quid is more than enough. He helps me with my luggage and bids me goodbye. I board my bus and the journey is filled with thoughts. I had come to Oxford to broaden my horizons, to learn more about the world. On my last day in the city, Oxford decided to teach me a little about my own country.]