A Taxi Driver and Tulah

I had an exciting encounter with a taxi driver when I was going from the airport to the hotel about a week ago. I actually wasn’t too excited to have a chat with any taxi driver after 3-4 hour flight.

There were occasions in the past when I was in the mood to entertain the driver’s conversation, but I ended up listening to the driver’s moaning about his tough life, his family financial problem, and how little he has earned that day. That would put you in a difficult situation to decide whether to continue the conversation or think what the driver would expect from you. That’s not the kind of conversation you’d like to have after sitting in a tin can for 3-4 hour long, or on the way to prepare for some critical meetings ahead, or in the middle of facing a problem yourself. It would undoubtedly drain your energy.

I thought I would be up for a similar experience when the taxi driver started the conversation, but something intrigued me immediately, the driver’s name is John, but he said he came from an Island in Indonesia that I know has a majority of the Muslim population. That started my interest in listening to his stories.

Our conversation started with a standard topic, the presidential election and the current constitutional court to decide on the presidential election dispute. I expected that once the conversation went off to the time when he shared his life story; it would be a story full of hardship and struggles. It wasn’t. It ended up becoming one of my best ever conversation with a taxi driver.

I know he is different when he said, “You know, sir, corruptor (corrupt officials)  is worse than lions or tigers”.

We were discussing how dirty the government officials and politicians are in our country.

“Why?” I asked,

He then continued with such a conviction.

“Well, lions or tigers are so vicious that they would kill and eat your flesh. But corruptors are far worse, not only they are willing to kill you but they would eat (take hold of) asphalt, oil, forest, lands, everything they can lay their hands on”.

This was the first time I heard such an expression. Credit to John, this is the most straightforward and simple way of describing how destructive and disgusting the corrupt officials and politicians are.

Our conversation went on to different topics until he asked me,

Do you know what Tulah is?”

I think this is a holy-book related term that he was trying to share me.  I said, “no, I never heard of it”*.

“I’ll give you examples so you’d understand the concept of Tulah”. His voice was floating as I looked out the window as he maneuvered through Jakarta’s awful traffic.

“I grew up in Jambi, and I used to hate Javanese so much. I just didn’t understand why but I hated them to the bone. I was mean to them and used to pick up the fights with them. But look what happened to me. I moved to Java after I graduated from high school, met a Javanese woman there, married to her and since then, have been working hard day and night to provide for her and the kids she gave me”.

He took a deep breath and continued on,

“You shouldn’t hate any people so much, as I did.  You wouldn’t know what the future lies for you. You may need them one day. That’s the first example of Tulah. The second example is let’s say you have someone who comes to you asking for a loan. You know this person, and you’re willing to help. He promises you that he will pay back in about two week time. Two weeks pass, he comes back to you telling that he needs more time. You wouldn’t mind so you give him some more time. Unfortunately, that happens, again and again, until one point of time you decide, well let it be, maybe he needs it more than I do. Sir, by that time you decide to let it go, and that you’re willing to forgive him even though he obviously has committed wrongdoing to you. Then your future will be blessed. That person’s blessing will be transferred to you”.

John finished his story as we approached the hotel. I don’t really believe that someone’s blessing can be transferred to another person, but what impressed me was his ability to reflect and look at the positive sides of his life and learned from them.

*funny, when I googled for the definition of “Tulah”, it means ‘a curse that brings calamity or unfortunate events’.



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