Hard times in Kabul: Debt-ridden driver survives on a loaf of bread

Khaama Press

The lives of many people in Afghanistan are shaped by layers of poverty, poverty that, in different periods, has either caused deprivation or led to severe social insecurity. In this report, you read about the life of an elderly man who has parked his taxi in a corner of the bustling city of Kabul, and beside it, a loaf of flatbread from a clay oven is visible, which he says he uses to get through the day.

It seems that no one has listened to his words for a long time, and he hasn’t had an opportunity to share his complaints with anyone candidly. Habibullah, who is 60, has been driving in Kabul, Afghanistan’s busiest and most chaotic city, for about 30 years.

Habibullah says, “I work as much as I can until my body and nerves tire from the exhaustion and the noise of cars and roadblocks.” Before becoming a driver, he tried other jobs but believed that in “this country,” no job yields results: “We tried everything, from manual labour to farming, apprenticeship, and street vending, but nothing worked until I sold my ancestral land and bought a vehicle.”

The trial and error phase in this elderly man’s life has been so prolonged that it’s easy to conclude that no suitable jobs offer satisfying income. This compels Habibullah to drive in the city, even “these days when people have become very impoverished.”

He adds that currently, many people use bicycles out of necessity and poverty, covering long distances with them.

Citizens who cover long distances in Kabul by bicycle agree with Habibullah. Hamed, a 40-year-old man who cycles daily between Darul Aman and the Sarsabzi intersection, told Khaama Press, “I earn six thousand salary, and if I spend it on taxi fares, nothing will be left for me.”

Habibullah says he earns 200 Afghanis some days and 400 Afghanis on others, but a significant portion of this money again goes towards vehicle taxes. He likens his taxi-driving job to a bird endlessly wandering an unknown path.

He has parked his vehicle in a corner and is talking about his health issues. Diabetes and heart problems are among Habibullah’s health concerns. Beside him is a pot of tea and a piece of flatbread, part of which he eats in the morning and the rest around 12:00 PM if he gets the chance.

He says he currently has a debt of 25,000. To change the color of his taxi from the previous color to blue, he borrowed money and has not been able to pay it back yet.

Hard times in Kabul: Debt-ridden driver survives on a loaf of bread