Photo credit: Checker Cabs
What does a man who drives for money all week do for fun on the weekend?
He drives for free, of course!
“I enjoy it!” says Iqbal Alimohd, a Calgary Checker Cab driver for over 40 years. “The Seniors, they are so friendly and appreciative. It is easy to be around them.”
Iqbal and his wife Mumtaz have been shopping and delivering groceries for Senior citizens in Calgary for about 30 years. They dedicate every Saturday to the project, and they have it down to a science.
“We take separate carts,” Iqbal explains. “I do the produce aisle; my wife does everything else.”
Iqbal arrived in Canada from Pakistan in 1973, headed to Calgary in 1974 and met his wife Mumtaz in 1976; they were blessed with two healthy sons. He has thoroughly enjoyed his life as a family man and a taxi driver in Calgary, and began finding ways to share and help others early in his career.
“I first noticed the Seniors years ago when I was doing pick-ups at the Safeway,” he recalls. “Some of them, I could see, were becoming really too elderly to do their own shopping. It was a lot of work for them. It seemed pretty natural to tell them to stay at home where they were comfortable and let me run and pick up the groceries for them.”
The Alimohd team currently shops for Seniors in five different buildings, and a typical check-out costs $600-700.
“The Seniors pay for their own groceries,” he points out. “We do the shopping and the delivery. My wife organizes all the orders by phone – I do not take any business calls on Saturdays, only grocery calls. Lately,” he adds happily, “both of my sons join us, too. They live about 30 kilometres outside the city, but on Saturdays they drive into town to do their own shopping, and help us with our deliveries too!”
Mumtaz Alimohd – the “non-produce” expert on the team – laughs when she describes her husband’s dedication to the work. “He can’t just buy an apple; he has to pick out the EXACT perfect apple for his Senior customers. He believes they deserve the best.”
Calgary career coach and consultant Alnoor Damji confirms Iqbal’s rare special qualities: “He truly exemplifies ‘heart-centred leadership,’” Damji says. “Iqbal leads by doing, with action. You can’t say this of too many people; if only more people were like him.”
Damji has known Iqbal for at least 35 years: “He used to drive many of my family and other members of the Ismaili community to Mosque,” Damji recalls. “When my grandmother first moved here, she loved Canada but spoke very little English. Iqbal actually helped her learn to speak English, and used every trip as a lesson. She improved her English learning to read traffic signs like ‘Stop’ and ‘Yield,’” he laughs.
When asked what advice he would give young people on how to be happy, Iqbal answers without hesitation: “Love your parents and look after them!” On this Mumtaz agrees: she says the fact so many of the Seniors Iqbal has befriended over the years are, of course, aging and dying has been a source of great sadness for them.
“We have lost a lot of Seniors during Covid, that has been hard. Recently, Iqbal’s oldest client died – she was 106 years old! A lot of today’s young people,” she says sadly, “do not have the chance to benefit from the experience of these people. They lived long; they know so much. They want to help. Young people could learn so much from them.”
Iqbal himself notes that over the years, he has dedicated a considerable amount of time to simply visiting with Seniors: “It often happens, when I am making deliveries, that Seniors would ask me to come back in the evening for an hour, just to talk and visit. I have always liked doing that, listening to their stories. So often they are lonely – even when they have children, their kids are so busy with their own families they just do not have the time. Young families are so busy now.”
The Alimohd’s 45-year marriage has been based on listening, Mumtaz explains – and unity. “To young people I would say, ‘Be united with your partner.’ If there have to be disagreements, be quiet and listen to the other person. Probably you will find what is bothering them, so together you can fix it.”