BANGLADESHI taxi driver Abul Salam loves the Cork landscape and people but is frustrated that, after 19 years, he is still considered a ‘blow-in’.
Abul plays cricket, the gentleman’s game, with the Cork Cricket Club in the Marydyke, and works driving Corkonians around the city in his taxi, which he likes very much.
“It’s a nice way to see all the different parts of Cork and also to meet lots of different people,” Abul says.
Living in Douglas with his wife, Amina Khatun, his son, Masroor, 18 and his daughter, Afifah, 10, Abul says he enjoys his life in Cork, but, of course, he misses home.
“Who does not miss their own home?” Abul says.
“I miss my own people, I miss the sound of my city: I miss it! I miss the get-togethers and group meals, especially after Ramadan.
“I miss village life, when sitting down in a small tea stall, with known and unknown friends, and engaging with huge arguments about politics.
"I miss that wonderful feeling when walking home from the bus; it is a long, long walk between green paddy field, with a light breeze to wipe up your sweat.
"I miss overcrowded Bangla New Year, when you have to struggle to walk about... five kilometres to get to the venue: you will see nothing but people,” Abul says.
Abul also misses the rickshaw taxis and his native cuisine.
“Rickshaw transport is amazing, especially in the spring season or rainy season, or monsoon, in the twilight afternoon with a light breeze and you are riding in a rickshaw: it’s a wonderful feeling; or on a hot day when you are in a rickshaw and, suddenly, rain starts and you are miserably wet.
"It is a wordless experience; you just have to feel it,” Abul says.
Despite missing so much, Abul and his family rarely go home to Bangladesh.
“It is expensive and it is hard for all of us to have the time to go together.
“The kids have school and we can’t go in the summer, because it is too hot for them; they are not used to it, they blister up,” Abul says.
Abul came to Cork to accept a job and stayed because of the beauty and prosperity of the city.
“Cork has offered me a lot of opportunities that I never even dreamt about.
“You can have lots of things in Cork and, most importantly, a safe and secure standard of living, with good opportunities for your children and a wealth of sports,” Abul says.
The taxi driver loves exploring the Wild Atlantic Way scenic walk with his family and enjoys a visit to Inchydoney beach, near Clonakilty, as well as Mizen Head.
“I have got a good opportunity to see around the county of Cork. I have seen seaside, mountain, bush-walk, and cave.
“Cork is a county with a lot of farmlands, open green fields. It is not very congested; you can take a fresh breath and it has ocean nearby,” Abul says.
While Abul and his family have a certain grá for Cork, the Bangladeshi man says it is disheartening that he is still considered a blow-in, after almost two decades in the city.
“People in Cork are astonishing: it is hard to break in. When they describe me as a blow-in, no matter how long I'm going to stay here or how I behave, I don’t belong.
"No matter how good or how long you live in Ireland, that bit of disheartening tone, sometimes it is overwhelming,” Abul says.
Despite this issue, Abul says he enjoys the lilt of the Cork accent and likes the sing-song chatter of the locals, although it took some time to learn to decipher it when he first arrived.
“Corkonians speak distinctly rhythmically and often use ‘boy’ or ‘like’ and a lot of phrases,” Abul says.
As well as exploring Cork and playing cricket, Abul likes to read a lot and particularly enjoys factual books about Bangladesh.
Abul’s son and daughter also enjoy reading a great deal.
“It is my son’s birthday on Tuesday: he is going to be 18. I had big plans, but now, because of the coronavirus, I am not sure what we will do,” Abul says.
Looking ahead, Abul says he sees his future very much in Cork.
“I am looking forward to seeing my children grow up and start lives of their own here in Cork.
"That is something that I am very much looking forward to.”