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All work and no play make for a very dull Karachiite. Luckily, most Karachi men manage to strike a healthy balance between both. Kolachi surveys the games Karachiites play...
By Sabeen Jamil and Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid
Gone are the days when young karachi boys would celebrate the end of the week with a game of street cricket. The elders of the mohallah would hold lively debate at one end of a sidewalk and daigs of haleem would be prepared at the other. Older women and young girls were part of the audience too, hanging off their balconies and peeping through windows, cheering on their brothers and sons. This novel scene can still be seen today but is not as common as it ued to be. Struggling to make ends meet amidst the 'haves' that have pushed their way into lives and surviving the corporate culture that engulfs Karachi today, young Karachiites have exchanged leisure time and activities for the three meals their metropolis ensures them.
Yet they do not succumb to the monotony of a nine to five life. Cursing their way through horrific traffic jams, perspiring heavily while hanging from and sitting on top of crowded mini-buses, studying hard for exams whilst enduring endless power breakdowns, ardent Karachiites still manage to steal some time to unwind.
Kolachi identifies five popular sports that young men indulge in to recover from the hectic Karachi days.
Love for cricket courses through every Karachiite's blood. Boys running between the makeshift 'wickets' on a stretch of road, which serves as a pitch, are a common sight in Karachi. Cricket is popular not only because of the international success of the Pakistani cricket team but also because playing the game doesn't cost much. Just catch hold of a bunch of willing would-be cricketers, a bat and a ball and any street can be your Oval.
Zeeshan Ahmed, 18, a college student is a die-hard cricket fan. "The moment I am done with my coaching classes," he bubbles enthusiastically, " I collect my friends and play cricket." He adds that though he plays on the by-roads in his area, he often also plays night-matches arranged by an organizer in the parking lot of Hyderi market, North Nazimabad. "The organizer arranges matches between two teams from different towns for a 1000 rupees from each team."
Though Karachi has some good playgrounds, such as Asgher Ali Shah Stadium, equipped with state-of-the-art sports facilities, they do not cater to every Karachiite given the fee one has to pay to use them. Mostly though, Karachi doesn't have enough playgrounds as the land mafia and weekly bazaars occupy several grounds in the city. This leaves cricket lovers with no option but to play on roadsides and streets. Street cricket is commonly known as tape-ball cricket and is more popular than the hardball cricket played in grounds. A large number of cricket lovers spend hours playing cricket in their respective mohallas livening up Karachi streets as they applaud the sixers that more often than not go through a neighbour's window!
Called patti locally, foosball or 'hand football' is played by men of all ages across the city. The game that costs only five rupees for a single round is popular world wide and is a recent add on to the Olympics.
Foosball tables can be seen installed in areas surrounding apartments buildings or congested market places catering to people from middle and lower income groups. The game is equally popular among upper income groups and foosball tables can be seen in different hotels and shopping plazas. It is recognized mostly as a game of the poor though, loved equally by the young and old.
"You'll always find a lot of children thronging shops with foosball tables," observes Abuzar Hamid, 22, who works at a mobile phone shop and is a frequent foosball player.
However, he thinks the environment of these places is not suitable for children, "One can find all sorts of people in these places including drug addicts who use them as their hide-outs," he tells Kolachi, "children spend a lot of time and money at these places which are usually full of chain smokers," he says, fearing that such environments may encourage under-aged children to smoke and indulge in other harmful habits.
A bunch of men, their faces lit by a 60 watt bulb, leaning over a huge carrom board set by the shops beneath old apartment buildings, is a common Karachi sight. The game called dabbu locally is known internationally as 'carrom' and is much loved by Karachiites. Dabbu lovers of all ages can be seen striking to win in different localities in the city. Kharadar, Burns Road, Nazimabad and Malir are some of the areas famous for the game.
"Burns Road has the most famous adda for dabbu," claims Bilal Mustafa, 45, an expert dabbu player. Bilal, the proud champion of several dabbu tournaments sells groceries on a cart in Saddar and regularly plays dabbu arranged at a shop on Burns Road.
However, the game is known to not be a "gentle man's game" by the 'educated' faction of the city.
Qanit Ahmed, 26, is a computer engineer by profession and thoroughly dislikes the game and the environment which it is played in. "One of my friend took me to a dabbu game once," shares Qanit, "the spot was crowded with all sorts of people including drug addicts," he recalls that he had left the place immediately without even playing but police raided the place as he was walking out, and put everyone there including him, in jail. "The police was looking for a drug dealer, who was a regular at that particular shop," he adds that his parents bailed him out but the experience was a humiliating one and turned him off the game forever.
Snooker is an indoor game that is famous worldwide and is being played on amateur and professional levels across the globe.
The game was introduced in Karachi decades ago and its popularity has soared as young men adopt it as their preferred leisure activity.
"I spend every Friday night playing snooker," says Jehanzeb Shah, 24, a businessman. Jehanzeb claims that there is no snooker parlor in the city, which he hasn't played in.
There are a number of snooker parlors, in almost every area of Karachi, and are easily accessible to everyone, attracting the younger lot with their relaxed atmosphere. Playing snooker in an air-conditioned room with many facilities available pulls large crowds. However, playing in a parlor is not affordable for everyone as snooker is an expensive game. A single game of snooker costs a rupee per minute at some places and two-and-a-half rupees per minute at others, which is not affordable for many people in this city who might not make enough money, but still enjoy the game.
But where there is a will there is a way, and snooker tables installed on sidewalks and by the roads cater to the lower income snooker fans. Termed as low-profile snooker arenas, several people can be found playing snooker here at any given time of the day.
For Muneeb Raza, 14 gaming zones are akin to heaven on earth. He studies in the ninth grade and spends entire evenings in a gaming zone near his flat in Gulistan-e-Jauhar.
"Playing video games is the only entertainment I have," he tells Kolachi adding that as he lives in a congested locality there is no place to play cricket and he often ends up at the single-room shop providing gaming facilities. However, he admits, that his parents do not approve of his extreme addiction to the game, "My father abhors my going to the gaming zone as he thinks it's not safe."
Muneeb reveals that despite his parents' disapproval he manages to steal off to the shop anyway, "I tell them I am off to a friend's for combined studies," he reveals slyly.
Built on larger scale in posh localities of the city, and set up in single rooms in less-developed areas, gaming zones are a major hit and regardless of their location, every shop is always thronged with zealous gamers.
Setting up a gaming zone on a large scale requires a lot of money as the shops need to be equipped with the best facilities, a safe environment and the latest gaming software to attract large numbers of young gamers.
Junaid Moosa, 27, owns a gaming zone in Clifton. He opened this shop prompted by the fact that, "Karachi lacks sporting facilities and youngsters prefer indoor games."
He adds that money was another factor that tempted him into this business as youngsters' enthusiasm for gaming allows gaming zones to mint money.
Young people all around the world bubble with energy and a zest for life regardless of their ethnicities and financial backgrounds. They seek out ways to release this energy and in countries where wisdom prevails; authorities make sure the youth has enough outlets to channel their energy constructively. Youngsters can not only channel their energy playing sports, but develop skills and good reflexes as well. This keeps them from indulging in activities that might breed crime in society but satisfy their quest for adventure. Sadly in Pakistan, the authorities do not seem to realize this, resulting in a lack of sporting facilities for the young.
Nevertheless, young men limitlessly seek entertainment. If they can't afford to join a cricket club in a prestigious stadium, they play on the roads instead. If they can't afford a snooker parlor they set a table in the parking lot of their apartment building instead. Young Karachi men rule every arena of the city's life, and own every its every corner. They pave way for their energy and enthusiasm and devise methods to keep their spirits high, emerging as true winners regardless of which sport they play.
Life may not be a bed of roses for most of the young men of Karachi, but by their committment to leisure, they ensure that they become anything but 'dull boys'.
Symbol of apathy
Once tipped to be the next Defence and Clifton, Gulistan-e-Jauhar is now a pitiable sight. The town has been developed rather haphazardly, and should construction and development plans not be streamlined and checked, the many problems this area faces will be magnified and multiplied
By Syeda Rabab Naqvi
One doesn't need to travel a long way into Gulistan-e-Jauhar to get an idea of what the residents of the place have to go through everyday. Be it the Millennium Mall or Samama Shopping Centre, one can see vehicles literally piling up on each other. With a proper parking system nearly absent, the misery of commuters is compounded.
"You need to think a thousand times before you leave your house. If the route entails Jauhar Mor, then God help us. It takes nearly 25 minutes just to cross the junction, and by the time one crosses that signal, one is exhausted," says one motorist.
"If there is no traffic at Jauhar Mor, we feel that there is some trouble in the city. We get anxious when the roads are empty," says Wasim Sattar, a resident of Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Block 7.
The existing traffic system needs to be repaired desperately. The roads are insufficient for the thousands of vehicles that force their way through thoroughfares, resulting in traffic jams. The City District Government Karachi (CDGK) is carrying out development works in every town of the city except Gulistan-e-Jauhar. Although the laying of the underground utility cables is now underway, it seems that it will take at least another six months for roads to be carpeted completely. CDGK has now announced that it will construct flyovers at Jauhar Mor and Askari IV. How these projects will affect the residents of Gulistan-e-Jauhar is yet to be seen.
Hussain Ali, a resident, is very skeptical. "There is no guarantee that the flyovers will ease the situation. We need a substitute to travelling by car, perhaps an emergency revival of the Karachi Circular Railway."
If the nightmarish traffic issues weren't enough, the sewage-inundated roads further add to people's misgivings. There need not be rainstorms to disrupt the sewerage system of Gulistan-e-Jauhar. It is already quite decrepit, and a slight blockade by a plastic bag or litter makes gutter lines spurt out all their contents on the roads.
The main hold-up in the development of Gulistan-e-Jauhar is the issue of responsibility. There has been a long-drawn tussle between CDGK and Faisal Cantonment Board (FCB) about which of the two is responsible for development. FCB has long been stating that its responsibility is only to manage streetlights and service lanes. They maintain that the responsibility of carpeting roads lies with the main city government. But as most residents point out, the streetlights have been out of order for a while, with no remedy in sight.
A government official wishing anonymity told Kolachi that the underground water pipes are punctured and the repair work should have been carried out on emergency basis. The official adds, "The roads are already in a pathetic condition, and when the water leaks out of these water pipes, they worsen. This not only adds to the difficulties of the commuters, it also creates water shortage for the residents. All this demanded work on emergency basis, but for reasons best known to the administration, the work was delayed. It is now that after so many months, some development work has begun. But this is too little, too late."
As far as power and water issues go, Gulistan-e-Jauhar is worse off than any other part of Karachi. With high rise buildings piling along the main roads, and apartments usually over crowded, the water and power shortage sometimes reaches alarming levels. The wires trip frequently and the risk of a short circuit always looms large. Coupled with the hostile weather of the metropolis, the occupants of the apartments are often miserable.
What worsens the power crisis in Gulistan-e-Jauhar is power theft by the squatter settlers. A visitor would be shocked to observe their lifestyles. They have TVs in every jughi, which they watch from the time they wake up to they go to sleep. "We, living in houses, can't afford the life the people of these squatter settlements live. They watch TV the entire day, without sparing the thought of the electricity bill they will have to pay. But why should they? All they need is a kunda and their problems are dealt with," says Muhammad Mustafa, a resident of Block 14. ime they go to sleep.
Gulistan-e-Jauhar is also a hot spot for dacoits and robbers. In the past one month, as many as 14 houses have been robbed in Block 14 with not a hint of police action to remedy the situation.
Nigar Zehra, a resident of Block 14, said that her house was robbed of at least one million rupees. And if all this was not enough, she saw the same dacoits outside her house a day later. "I called the police immediately. I described the car and the robbers to them, I knew that they were up to no good. Now that I had called the police and personally informed the SHO, I expected the police to catch them. Nothing happened and the very next day, our next door neighbours were robbed."
While Millennium Mall and Samama Shopping Centre wreak havoc on the traffic, they do present some relief to the families that throng these places when they need an "outing". Millennium Mall has a shopping centre, food courts and other places for entertainment. In the evenings, families bear the ghastly traffic to reach these places to have some fun.
Bushra Idrees says, "The good this about this area is that you don't have to go all the way to Tariq Road, Hyderi or Paposh for shopping. We can easily come here and get what we want at very reasonable rates. What else could one want?"
Another lady counts the shopping malls near their house as a blessing in disguise. "Though these shopping malls cause trouble for the traffic, they have to a great extent solved our problems related to shopping. Our men come from office around eight and nine in the night, and we don't expect them to take us to shopping. Now with these shopping malls so near, we can easily take a taxi or rickshaw and come here. We no longer have t be dependent upon our husbands for our shopping," she said.
If the civic issues of this town are resolved, the appearance of this place can change dramatically. After all, it is the unacceptable civic conditions that have made residents and commuters complain about this place. The environmental infrastructure is in place (the traffic islands are mostly green except for at a few places), there are shopping malls and there are ample apartments for residence. The bad conditions of the thoroughfares and the water and power crisis are the only thing that make Gulistan-e-Jauhar unfit for occupancy. These conditions are big thumbs down for this town, and need to be taken care of immediately.
Karachi spirit:Hits hard!
By Amina Baig
My father recently proved a point that he had long been trying to drive home. That he found the opportunity to do so through the torturous experience of having to watch a gun being held to his wife's head shows how desperate he must have been for me to understand why my parents call me every other hour while I'm out with friends. Or why they stay up till I reach home, unscathed. "See, if they don't let old people like us alone while we're out, imagine how much worse it can be for a bunch of girls out on their own!" he said, imploring me to understand, albeit somewhat triumphantly.
Khayaban-e-Muhafiz is apparently not the safe haven the name suggests. My parents while driving on this road were stopped by a car from which a gun brandishing youth emerged, and calmly sat himself down in their car. He proceeded to put a gun to my mother's head and asked my parents to hand over anything of worth over to him. " He was a nice young man," said my mother, forever the optimist, "wasn't rude to us or anything, and he didn't shoot either of us, which he easily could have." This kind, young gentleman in his infinite generosity let my father keep some change, and returned him his cell phone.
But why just pick on one Karachi road? How about the motorcycle riding men who casually point guns at people to alleviate the process of snatching cell phones or money in broad daylight? The crime of armed robbery is on a quick upwards spiral in the city. However it is not the sole reason for inciting dread amongst people who for one reason or the other must step out of their houses every day.
The first reason anyone in Karachi will give you for not going out enough is that they don't have the courage to brave the traffic after a long day at work or school. This is the most foolproof excuse in the world of Karachi and one that no one wants to challenge, as it can be the excuse of choice, (or truth) for them someday.
Whilst fighting the Karachi traffic is a job fit for gladiators, it becomes that much harder when you're a woman. Not only do female drivers, passengers and pedestrians have to suffer through bad driving and traffic hold-ups, they also have to suffer the countless leers, comments and offers of 'friendship' while on the road.
Initially I wondered if men usually just target women who are dressed 'immodestly', but my questions were answered when a friend who observes full purdah reassured me that she goes through the same thing while commuting. Whether she is walking or in a vehicle, she agrees that most men feel they must walk or ride their bikes up close and say something, or maybe just watch her squirm at their advances.
While most women have devised a system to ensure they make minimum contact with men while out on the road, sometimes when the system around them is thrown in disarray, their methods fail as well.
Currently being forced to bump shoulders with strangers on the sidewalk on I.I Chundrigar Road, which has been closed down to traffic for a month, women who work on this road or must frequent it for one reason or the other find themselves facing, along with clouds of dust, much unwanted attention.
I.I Chundrigar Road, a main arterial road of Karachi is having sewage and drainage lines installed along it, and will be carpeted once this work is done. The newly refurbished road, it is said will become open to transport on August 14.
Right now though what seem to be all the contents of Chundrigar Road, including motorcyclists, have been piled on the sidewalk that runs along it, in front of the shops and offices that dot the road.
As if it wasn't bad enough that people cannot access their workplaces directly, and the walk from Shaheen Complex to their respective offices entails walking through piles of garbage dumped off the road and onto the sidewalk, and dodging motorcycles and cycles, men using the same sidewalk seem to feel they must celebrate the state of mayhem and brush their rides, or themselves, by the women walking alongside them.
There is no way to fight this phenomenon, which as a child I had heard being dubbed as 'eve teasing'. Most women venture out of their homes every day to earn a living. One might glare at the offender, tell him off or even react physically, only to be faced with the same predicament the next day, only with a new face to the old offence.
When I was younger, and fought my parents' restrictions with vigorous rebelliousness and constantly questioned every restriction imposed upon me, I was always answered with a simple, "its not because we don't trust you, its because we love you."
Being a parent in Karachi is a hazardous occupation. Hats off to parents who have stayed up nights waiting for their children to return home, without breaking down should the child be later than he said. But more so, hats off to the same parents who will still allow their children to go on with their lives normally regardless of what goes down in the city.
Dwellers of calmer Pakistani cities often accuse Karachiites of being insensitive. Many wonder how one catastrophe after the other doesn't deter Karachi's spirit. Living in Karachi is a course wrought with many dangers, both natural and simulated. The people of this city understand better than anyone that one must accept every mishap with absolute courage, and not let any incident, however big or small, break one's spirit. Ordinary Karachiites may not fight back with violence, protests or rallies, but have conditioned themselves to silently mourn any disaster that affects lives around them, and to valiantly go on with theirs.
Seventy going on thirty
By Maryam Baqir
When one enters the threshold of maturity, one exhibits a personality full of vigor. While transforming from an adolescent to an adult, one works extremely hard, with oodles of energy and dynamism, to attain whatever goals one had set out to achieve. But a time comes when the energy gradually subsides.The body starts giving in to nature's way, and that marks the onset of old age.
Kolachi came across a woman who passed through all the stages of her life with steely determination, and is now almost seventy. The most compelling thing about Noor Mai is that she has not allowed the years to age her spirit. Part maid, part nanny, her accepting nature makes her heart go on.
Kolachi: When did you migrate to Karachi and from where? What compelled you to take this step?
Noor Mai: I had lived in Rahim Yar Khan for most of my life. I got married there and gave birth to eight children - three sons and five daughters, one of who is handicapped. My husband died six years ago; his death completely devastated me. It was then that I decided to move to Karachi in order to earn a living to be able to raise my children.
Kolachi: How did you find Karachi when you first came here?
Noor Mai: I loved Karachi, and still love it simply because it gave me the opportunity to feed my children. Even though I had to part with my loved ones, the fact that I was able to make my family survive and live a satisfactory life compensated for all the sorrows that I had traveled with. Karachi was a haven to my family and I am obliged to this city for that. Had I stayed in Punjab, my family and I would have died long ago due to unfed stomachs. Aur sab maza bhi to yahan hai…sub kuch hai.
Kolachi: What work do you do?
Noor Mai: I provide domestic services for a family here. I was appointed as the caretaker of a new born baby girl, Maham, five years ago. Since then I have been working in that house, located near my residence in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, not just as a caretaker but also as a maid. I reach work at eight in the morning; I dust the furniture, sweep the floor, wash clothes and utensils and play with Maham. Maham's parents are both doctors and therefore need me to take care of her in their absence. I leave for home at four.
Kolachi: Why do you still work for a living? Are you compelled, or do you work on your own accord?
Noor Mai: Two of my sons are married, and provide for their own families. Both of them blindly follow what their wives tell them to, and their wives have absolutely no regard for their mother-in-law. So, even though all of us live under the same roof we can practically be regarded as three separate families. My youngest daughter has been handicapped since birth, and my third son is completely non-serious about life. In the beginning, I was forced to work to bring my two children up. But five years on, I have developed a real bond with Maham and her family. I work both because I need the money, and I enjoy what I do.
Kolachi: What makes Karachi a better spot for earning, as compared to Rahim Yar Khan?
Noor Mai: There are countless houses in Karachi where women like me are required for daily household chores. On the contrary, Punjab mainly offers farming jobs for women. Destitute women can be commonly seen plucking cotton from the cotton fields, even if it is oppressively hot. They are not provided any shade during work, and are seriously underpaid. In Karachi, doing what I do, you have the luxury of working in a rooms with a fan and can even take a nap in between. Moreover, maids are occasionally given unwanted items and simple presents - enough to make them and their families happy.
Kolachi: You have talked a lot about how good a city Karachi is, is there no dark side to it?
Noor Mai: Of course, there is. Corruption is deeply rooted in the lower class. 99 per cent of the robberies that take place in houses are because of the servants and maids that work in them. People have become insensitive. If I forget the way to my home, not a single person would bother guiding me correctly. I know a family whose two young daughters are missing since Monday. Despite constant visits to the police station, they are nowhere to be found and perhaps there is no hope anymore.
Kolachi: Will you ever stop working?
Noor Mai: I will possibly work till the very last day of my life because I have to feed my daughter and care for her. If I ever do stop working, I know for sure that my daughter will die of starvation. The rest of my daughters are all married and live in Punjab. Their husbands would never want to keep a handicapped girl in their huts. My sons are too insensitive to take care of her. Sometimes I almost, remorsefully, wish that my daughter would be the first one to go. My employer pays me 2500 rupees every month, and that is exclusive of the daily meals that she provides. So what if I have to wake up at six and go to bed by eleven? My daughter is my responsibility and I will provide for her till I collapse.
In their later years, the elderly are treated and cared for just the way babies are. On the contrary, Noor Mai is rendering her services to her child like a strong man of thirty, and taking care of her young daughter as well, not relying on anyone to care for her. Being assertive yet compassionate and persevering through any storm – such is Karachi's character.