Taxi drivers waiting for customers in Tbilisi.

TBILISI, DFWatch – Givi Maisuradze (41) is one of many independent taxi drivers in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.

He works day and night and has been a driver since the 1990s, a period he calls ‘the dark times’, because the whole city was in darkness at night. Today, the streets are lit at night.

Givi is an engineer, but worked in this field for only a few years. Now it’s hard for him to find a job as engineer with little qualifications.

He started as a taxi driver about twenty years ago, to provide for his wife and newborn child.

Driving a long way with him, Givi tells his story to DF Watch. He starts work at about 11 am. and with short breaks ends working day about 3-4 in the morning. Despite, people are less at night, roads are free and it’s easier to drive, prices are bit high so he prefers to work longer at night.

“For all these years I was robbed for fourteen times. None of these cases got in police or court even after Rose Revolution; however for the latest eight years it happened twice.”

The main problem, he says, is the dramatically increased price of diesel lately.

“You need about fifty lari of diesel to drive in the city a whole day. And if I earn fifty lari in one day, believe me it’s a very lucky day. I hardly have money for cigarettes as a taxi driver, and bit for food.”

He has another job as distributor. Once every three days, he delivers milk products to the districts of Tbilisi. He receives a fixed salary of 320 lari.

Still, he doesn’t really feel sad or complain. During the whole way from downtown Tbilisi to the outskirts of city, he sings three songs and tells jokes about his home region.

“I clap and you immediately say how much money you would wish to have,” he asks, smiling widely while waiting for a green light. Then he says his dream is to have a home with two floors, not a flat, but a house with many rooms and a garden with a big dog.

There are companies in Tbilisi which are called ‘three lari Taxi’. Their drivers have a fixed salary. It doesn’t literally cost three lari to get from any point to another point in Tbilisi; however they are cheaper than a private taxi.

Their cars drive on natural gas, Givi says, starting to criticize ‘their system’.

“Can you imagine those three lari taxi drivers singing like me? Well, yes they have more money than we do, but they never rest and it’s dangerous to travel with them. Most accidents happen to those bat-drivers, who never sleep or rest.”

Givi suggests it’s better to pay more and get home safe.

“I would never drive you from Rustaveli to Vazha-Pshavela for three lari. It’s even less than I will have to pay for diesel. These prices are unbelievable.”

The price of diesel and petrol are today between 2.30 and 2.50 lari. Prices increased by five tetri at the end of March and then again by five tetri in the beginning of April. There has been a discussion lately about the reason for the latest price rise. Some claim it is due to price fixing.

“In fact, you cannot earn much as a taxi driver now. I may be exaggerating a bit, but it is a fact that prices are getting unbelievably high. Luckily, I have another job. You cannot rely solely on this one.”

Givi says both his jobs are exhausting. He barely manages to play with his son or spend time with wife, who has her small home business. She sews clothes for people who orders it through the Internet and then sells them.

“Well it’s not much, but at least she provides herself with cosmetics, you know, women stuff.”

If the prices continue increasing, Givi says, he will have to sell his car and buy another one which burns less fuel, or ind another job, but today he still doesn’t complain.

“Let it be as it is today. What changes if I complain? Nothing. Let me just sing another song. Can you sing the lead? I’ll be bass.” The song ends and we arrive at our destination.