If there is one thing this Taxi! series has taught me, it is that life can be far more bizarre than fiction. Take the life and adventures of Reza, for example. After decades of being a grumpy delivery truck driver, he opted for the milder form of driving that not only protects his ageing back, but also allows him to interact with more people.
Unlike many of the other taxi drivers I have had the pleasure of meeting and have been on the road for decades, Reza is relatively new to the taxi world. He proudly told me that he had recently passed his Berlin taxi licensing exams, which is no small feat, it being second to London’s The Knowledge – THE most difficult taxi cab licensing exam in the world. Paris only comes third on the list, followed by Tokyo and Helsinki! It it not just about knowing how to drive, he explained, but all the taxi drivers who took the exam after Unification had to learn the streets in both East and West Berlin, landmarks, hotels, and a plethora of other information, keeping in mind that new hotels keeps mushrooming around Berlin a dime a dozen, and there are already 800 of them around town, with 36 more expected to open in 2019.
If only life could be simpler, said Reza, as he talked about his son. The young man fell in love with a charming young woman who won over all the family members over from the very beginning. It turned out, however, that she had a very dark side that nobody saw coming. It wasn’t long after the young couple rented an apartment together, got married and had a child that Reza’s son began turning up unexpectedly at his parents’ home, full of cuts and bruises, often hungry and sleepless. Neighbours often witnessed violent fights within the building and on the street, reporting them to the police for disturbance of the peace. Battered men syndrome remains a taboo topic even in the most liberal of countries.
Reza and his wife began fear for their son’s life and that of their grandson when the young man showed up again with slashed limbs and face. They knew his wife had gone over the edge, running amok with a kitchen knife and threatening everyone in site. A week later she committed suicide and a full scale police investigation was launched, which resulted in the intervention of the Jugendamt (Youth welfare office). The toddler was taken into custody and no family member has been allowed near him since.
This was four years ago.
Reza had tears in his eyes when he told me that in the past four years they have only been given two photographs of the child, but no visits have been allowed.
He has spent all his savings, borrowed money from all and sundry for legal fees, attempting to file for recovery and joint custody of his grandson, but so far all efforts have failed, and there seems to be no hope in sight in the near future. This, is of course, is only one side of the story and I am sure there are ten other angles to the case. But for now, this family drama weighs heavily on the Berliner taxi driver.