It is rare that one meets really impressive people. And sometimes one has to ask oneself whether one knows that person enough to be able to truly feel that that person is impressive. And of course there is a certain subjectivity to the word.
So while I qualify my ruminations about Mr. Bin knowing I met him not even for a full afternoon but a fairly short drive, let me tell you about my impressions.
First, Mr. Bin has those honest eyes that tells me he will pursue his craft even during dark days with little complaint.
That he always asks for a fair fare. That he is reliable and delivered me to my destination safely and with courtesy and would do so under the most difficult conditions and inclement weather. In short he is positive and reliable not what I always find with the vast majority of cabbies in certain locales.
That he has been doing his trade for twenty years following in the footsteps of his honorable father, also a rickshaw driver shows commitment. That he prides himself as being the best in the trade with his designation “King of the Street”.
Now onto language, as an applied linguist what fascinated me was that Mr. Bin has very good casual conversational English. He has mostly learned it on his rickshaw by himself in just speaking English with foreigners. He was his own teacher but with the drive and curiosity to learn from his clients. And possibly he had some inherent talent over and above many in his trade with language learning.
Two things from this I can tell my students. A good student will learn even despite a bad teacher or in Mr.Bin’s case no real teacher at all. Motivation, aptitude, pure will will make even the school drop-out learn ways to learn – to develop a strategy borrowing on strengths and avoiding weaknesses. Yes indeed, nothing replaces character including determination, too.
And finally, language is best, though not always, learned in real time and true situations not language lab petri dishes.
It is really amazing how many parents stuff so much money in language institutes and how many years some students spend in school and still cannot speak much English or speak almost none at all. Yet Mr. Bin is a “conversational master.”
So I am going to start a company called the English Rickshaw. No, I will not be a driver but a learning facilitator. It will be also a physical fitness and waist busting programme because a rickshaw driver needs to be a sort of an athlete to peddle his multi-thousand dollar vehicle to great heights.
But given my need to gain more fitness, maybe I should be a part time driver – if the road king let’s me. However, I would be too slow earning the moniker ” Turtle of the Road”.
Yet students with learning difficulties but with peripatetic tendencies could drive me than the other way around – much safer you would agree. And they could maneuver other English speakers for free, too or at moderate charge.
Mr.Bin on the other hand could be “professor king of the road” as part of the faculty. In my facilitator capacity at coffee breaks, some mangled English of prospective rickshaw language- driver students cum hopeful English conversationalists would be reviewed and improved. Mr. Bin would review their cycling skills, etiquette and commitment.
Well, that is a fascinating reflection on a new language learning method and commercializations of it beyond the fact I have too much free time on hand during vacation. And we need to remember that English can be learnt well by everybody and by students from a range of backgrounds. Maybe we put too much emphasis sometimes on the classroom and instructional learning for conversation learning?
As well, let us not forget that there are many doing tough jobs for which we should be more grateful of their contribution and their potential. I do not know really what is my main conclusion. Possibly, it has something to do with why Mr.Bin noticing my confusion and in his wisdom leaving me at the temple to meditate.
A little later, I could only think at first how I would like to see how long an average investment banker would last at this job in all the traffic, dust, heat, storms, downpours and how much of the local language they could learn this way.
It would be a cultural revolution to see the rickshaw drivers trade places with the bankers and we saw how that sort of thing worked out in Mao China despite some of the many honorable contributions of that leader including some of his partnership efforts with President Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
But Mr. Bin rises above such impractical geopolitical diversions and petty thoughts because he is ” King of the Road” and that is what matters most to him.
Let us all be our own “kings” and “queens” of whatever we do with dignity and integrity and little bit of language learning with enthusiasm as a way to meet more people and expand our horizons if it fits in.
Mr.Bin, you are my hero and may you ride with happiness and character for many more moons building on your love of English so you can be more helpful and caring to your guests with it. For I know that is one reason why you do it while being a shrewd businessman too. Yes, that was I wanted to say after looking into the great temple and escaping useless thoughts about bum bankers. Merry Christmas to all the Mr.Bins.