Lyari is home to over 5,000 racing donkeys. These young, well-fed animals are more expensive than locally manufactured motorbikes
By Shahid Shah
Upon crossing the Native Jetty Bridge (towards Hawkesbay), one can see several donkey carts along the railway line on the left. This number increases in the evenings. These donkeys, owned by residents of Lyari town, serve a dual purpose - transportation as well as recreation, that is, donkey cart races. The donkeys used for these races are usually younger and are much more expensive than the locally manufactured motorbikes.
The prices range between Rs20,000 and Rs100,000 whereas the price of a racing cart is under Rs10,000 (much less than a luggage carrying cart which costs about Rs30,000). It is worth mentioning here that the prices depend on the age of the donkeys and the area from which they are procured. In this regard, Iranian donkeys are the first preference, smuggled into Pakistan through Gwadar, Baluchistan.
Besides being smuggled from Iran, the donkey trade is also carried out in upper Sindh especially Jacobabad and Sukkur. In fact, figures suggest that Lyari is home to more than 5,000 donkeys used for such races. Not only this but also, both young and old alike participate in these races with equal fervour. For example, one Muhammad Siddique, a local, is 55 years old and continues to take part in these races. Then there is Ilyas Mandhro, 45, who enjoys these races just the way a young man would. According to Mandhro, a donkey that is under five years is more valuable than one that is older. "After five years, the animal 'retires' from racing and is used for carrying luggage," he explained.
On Sundays, when the rest of the city is relatively calmer, Lyari comes alive owing to these races. The length of the race varies, depending on the occasion and the road. Usually, it is anywhere between one to 10 kilometres. The longest routes are as follows: Ghaghar Phattak to Liaqatabad (nearly 10km), Gulbai to Habib Bank Chowk (above six kilometres), Mai Kolachi Bridge to Native's Jetty bridge (nearly five kilometres) and Hawkesbay to Gulshan-e-Benazir (five kilometres).
Betting in these races is common, ranging between Rs20,000 to Rs100,000. Those involved in betting pay a small amount to the owners of the donkeys both before and after the race. Indirect bets are also held, commonly known as 'gul'.
The love for donkeys borders on the extreme in Lyari. In this regard, Daud Mandhro, another ardent racer, narrated the tale of a mentally ill woman who walked the streets aimlessly and was the object of ridicule. In response, she would curse their families. Once a donkey owner made fun of her and she cursed his wife and children - to which he remained quiet - but got very upset when she cursed his donkey.
So great is the love that these people will go hungry themselves but cannot bear the thought of keeping their donkeys hungry. A donkey that is being prepared for a race eats a mixture of various feeds worth Rs5,000 to Rs6,000 in a period of 15 days. Feeding begins a couple of days before the race and includes khameera, majoon, almond, pistachio and ghee. This keeps the animals alert and reduces their body heat, explained one owner.
Usman Baloch, 69, owns more than a dozen donkeys that he uses for purposes of carrying luggage. "I participated in all the big races since Ayub Khan's time," he said. While Baloch has been participating in donkey cart races since 1958, it was the 60s that he feels was his 'peak' period in terms of racing. With great pride, he revealed how he raced his donkey with a Mercedes that belonged to a man named Suleman Ghanchi. Later, he said that Ghanchi called him at his house and asked about the price of the donkey. "I did not know he was a rich man and told him that he would not be able to afford my donkey. It was Rs10,000 then," he said. "He paid me Rs10,000 immediately and said I could keep the donkey too," added Baloch.
Most of these donkeys are named after either their owners or famous personalities (both notorious and otherwise). In the 60s, most donkeys were named Razakar, Parastan, Beta, Lalpan, Sheesh naag, Sartaj, Gunahgaar. Now, the names are mostly derived from Indian movies (and celebrities, for example, Kajal, Koel, Raka, Sar Katta, Radhay, Border, Cheetah and Heera Moti.
Given how valuable these donkeys are, it is not surprising to note that they are often 'abducted'. Owners are then forced to retrieve their animals through brokers or middlemen that have connections with the abductors. The ransom ranges between Rs5,000 to Rs10,000. "We haven't received a direct call from the kidnappers so far," said one owner.
Prior to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government, donkeys were not allowed the streets of Karachi, a restriction which he removed. "Now only I.I. Chundrigar road is closed for us," said one owner. During those days, a cart holder possessed a license and number plate as well.
The owners complained they had little support from the city authorities and fewer facilities for the animals at M.A. Jinnah Road Animal Hospital. The police also harass them when they go to Bohri Bazaar or Zaibunnisa Street, especially with regard to parking. "Radhay, the donkey, won first prize in the 'Hamara Karachi' programme held by the City District Government. The prize was Rs20,000 but the owners have yet to receive it," said another enthusiast. The race in question was from Gulbai to Kharkar Chowk, Shirin Jinnah Colony.
Some interesting facts
n Noor Muhammad Bala, a local social activist, told The News that one member of the provincial assembly from Lyari -- Ahmed Ali Soomro -- went to the Sindh Assembly Building in a taxi during the early 70s. His vehicle was stopped at the gate and guards told him that only private vehicles were allowed inside. The next day, he went on his donkey cart and was allowed to go inside.
n A few years back, a former PPP MPA from Lyari -- Nasreen Chandio -- also used a donkey cart to travel to the Sindh Assembly building.
n Another former lady councilor from Lyari even demanded the donkey should be used as the cultural symbol of Lyari.
Home is where the food is
Airline food almost always leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Sometimes, however, you get lucky and are left craving for more
By Hira Najam
It was the 'be Pakistani, buy Pakistani' motto that led my family and I to travel recently through a national airline. The journey took almost five hours, and in this time I found renewed respect for the flight crew and, I guess, the food served on the airline.
The menus are planned to cater to all and sundry. The appetisers include salads and bread. I was not expecting to find the kind of bread that was served to us on the plane (given all the horror stories that I have to had to hear about airline food), but it was a pleasant surprise to find oven-fresh buns and naans for dinner. I think the garlic bread served on the plane was the best I've ever had. It was crisp from the outside with just a tinge of garlic supplemented with herbs.
Then there was chicken qorma, chicken boti hara masala, badami chawal and daal to choose from. Both variations of chicken tasted far better than I expected but it was actually the daal that turned out to be the winner. Creamy, sunny yellow and full of fresh herbs, it was quite easily the best daal I had eaten outside of my mother's kitchen.
As a continental variation, braised chicken with sweet corn and chilies was served with a choice of either wok fried veggies or egg fried rice. Undoubtedly, there was room for improvement as far as the chicken is concerned, but the accompanying vegetables were magnificently crisp, holding their shape and tasted great, to say the least.
For dessert, we could choose from either ras malai or espresso chocolate tart. The tart, sadly, I couldn't try because by the time the food trolley reached us they were all out. Of course, my brother assured me the tart was "pretty good" which, by his standards, is usually something of a culinary masterpiece. The ras malai, however, proved to be a sore disappointment. For starters, it tasted like someone had poured sugar into it like it was going out of fashion and the pistachios on it looked like snails. It just looked very unappetising to say the least and I saw that most people, after taking a few bites, stopped eating it. The ras malai was probably the only thing that left a bad taste in the mouth - quite literally.
En route to Pakistan a week later, the food served on the airline was distinctly Pakistani, probably to tantalise the taste buds for those who missed Pakistani cuisine the way one would miss a limb. So, after a beef appetiser (I know!) and the coldest cucumber slice my teeth have had the displeasure of digging into, we were served bread, which was the same as before and I knew that it had to be tried out. I was not disappointed because the bread tasted the same as before - great. Whoever makes garlic bread for the national airline really deserves a pat on the back.
The main course consisted of bhindi gosht, achari murgh, daal, steamed rice and Hyderabadi biryani. Since I wasn't in the mood to eat any meat, all I had was the biryani rice and daal. The international specialty was tri-coloured capsicum with wok-fried beef. Not surprisingly, the biryani stood out among all the dishes, considering that I ate very little.
The desserts consisted of chocolate cake and baklava. The baklava was a bit sweeter that one would like and the cake was served with kiwi and peach, one of which was canned and tasted of - surprise, surprise -- sugar. The chocolate icing on the cake was quite hard but it was, no doubt, a good combination when put together with kiwi.
To say that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food would be an understatement. And it was not just the quality but the taste that reminded us of home when we were craving it. Sometimes, home is not where the heart is; sometimes, home is where the food is - especially good food.
PPP: On to uncharted territory?
in party ranks presents a gloomy picture in Sindh
The recent tug-of-war between the two PPP stalwarts - the co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and PPPP Chairman Makhdoom Amin Faheem -- has gained the attention of the media, political analysts and party strongholds in Sindh.
The activists residing in Hala, Amin Fahim's home town, believe that Zardari's failure in taking notice of the perceived unhappiness of the loyal legislators may push the party into an unseen quagmire in near future. They feel Makhdoom's splinter group will definitely gain control of the party.
Other analysts believe that this is not a new phenomenon. It is a power game. They say that the presidency may have planted its own people to create dents in the party in power. But above all, he (Makhdoom) is not an individual. He has the full support of certain political quarters, whose role in making the news cannot be ignored. Secondly, this should not be considered similar to the experience of the former PPP dissidents -- Mumtaz Bhutto, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and others - who did not have a following like Makhdoom Amin Fahim. The situation is quite different now, which may engulf the PPP, if Zardari continues to deal with things the way he has been doing till now.
These differences have surfaced at a time when the presidency was reportedly making moves since the PPP ruling leaders are in the frontline to remove Pervez Musharraf from power. Analysts say a meeting between former president Farooq Leghari and President Pervez Musharraf was significant as the former is considered to be close to Zardari's rivals.
One should look towards PPP's future instead of considering short-term possibilities. At present, Zardari, being in power, is enjoying the popularity. The ruling party has the support of the global powers. But the question is that how long can they ignore the loyal party activists, who struggled a lot in the past, to keep the party intact? Now, the workers are expecting more from the rulers while they are being ignored mercilessly, pushing them to find their own way for the future.
Earlier, when the PPP came into power, the dissident Makhdoom faction scrambled to get into power in the districts and towns that have been their strongholds, including Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Tharparkar, Tando Mohammed Khan, Badin, Thatta and Matiari districts. They initiated a move to replace the nazims but this could not materialise as Fahim did not get an important position.
Makhdoom, being a chief of his spiritual Sarwari Jamaat, is still enjoying the support of his followers living in those seven districts among a total of 23. He, sooner or later, may mobilise his followers to give a hard time to his mass party rivals. At present, the situation is not clear regarding the number of MNAs willing to lend their support to the Makhdoom faction. However, there are a large number of legislators, who have been ignored by Zardari directly or indirectly or being deprived of their desiring ranks in the party may join Makhdoom faction.
Analysts say it is tradition that the feudal lords usually change their loyalties to have easy access to the corridors of power. After differences between the two major party giants resurfaced, Zardari has taken it upon himself to overthrow the rivals in their strongholds. The first move in this regard has been initiated from Matiari, the native district of the Makhdooms, where they have leveled serious corruption charges against the Awam Dost Naib Nazim, who is supported by the Sarwari Jamaat. This move may be expanded to other strongholds. It is quite a conventional political strategy, which all legislators in power (or otherwise) usually adopt during a political crisis.
This is a war of survival where both giants are in direct conflict with one another. The people who have been marginalised by present ruling leadership are ready to support Makhdoom Amin Fahim. As far as time is concerned, this depends on the respective position of both leaders.
The analysts say that Zardari does not have a charismatic personality like the slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto. Zardari cannot enjoy the support of the party cadre. Ms Bhutto had adopted a strategy to promote the committed party cadre. She brought in new faces from marginalised communities, something which Zardari has been unable to do till now.
Similarly, no party, including the PPP, has the resources to come up to the expectations of all party men, including providing jobs and initiating uplift schemes in their areas. Thus, now, the PPP being in power is forced to deal with the hostile attitude of the masses.
The uncertainty within the party ranks presents a gloomy picture in the entire province, including Karachi. However, analysts say that Fahim never tried to find a place for himself in the hearts of Karachiites.
Mild memory impairment may be associated with a sound processing disorder called the central auditory processing dysfunction, say US researchers. People with the disorder have difficulty hearing in complex situations with competing noise,
such as making out what one person is saying while many people in a group are talking at the same time.
The "central auditory processing dysfunction is a general term that is applied to people whose hearing in quiet settings is normal or near normal, yet who have substantial hearing difficulty in the presence of auditory stressors such as competing noise and other difficult listening situations," according to background information in the study.
"Central auditory testing is important in evaluating individuals with hearing difficulty,
because poor central auditory ability, per se, is not helped by amplification and requires alternative rehabilitation strategies."
Previous research has found that people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia have central auditory processing dysfunction.
This new study by Dr George A. Gates, of the University of Washington, US, and colleagues included 313 people, average age 80, taking part in a dementia surveillance program that began in 1994. Of the participants, 17 had been diagnosed with dementia, 64 had mild memory impairment, and 232 had no memory problems. Three tests were used to assess the participants' central auditory processing. In one test, nonsense sentences were read over the background of an interesting narrative. In the other two tests, separate sentences or numbers were read into each ear simultaneously.
"These central auditory processing test paradigms evaluate how well an individual manages competing signals, a task that requires adequate short-term memory and the ability to shift attention rapidly," the researchers noted.
Participants with dementia and mild memory impairment scored significantly lower on the tests than those without memory problems.
"Central auditory function was affected by even mild memory impairment," the researchers wrote. "We recommend that central auditory testing be considered in the evaluation of older persons with hearing complaints as part of a comprehensive, individualised program to assist their needs in both the aural rehabilitative and the cognitive domains."
The findings were published in the latest issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.
Whenever someone asks me how long I have lived in Karachi, I am tempted to say "always" in a heart beat, but then memory kicks in and instead I say "some years". Having spent all my early life abroad, all my information regarding Pakistan, and for that matter Karachi, came from my father. It was through his words and his memories that I went around on a virtual tour of the city, thousands of miles away even before I had a chance to visit it. Not only would he regale me with his anecdotes about the city, he also instilled in me the desire to visit the city some day.
Playing cricket on the streets, walking through Saddar kulfis in hand during the sultry Karachi summers and watching movies at the Drive-in cinema were some of the things that were etched in my mind owing to my father's recollections. Funny incidents and unforgettable moments, highlighting the bright side of being a young man/woman in Karachi served as pixels in the bitmap image of the city. Karachi, to a stranger like me, signified a city that was eternally in the midst of spring vacations. It was a world away and yet it continued to call out to me.
The time that my parents spent there was replete with emotional highs and lows, something which I always came to associate with the city. Needless to say, it was with sky-high expectations that I set foot in the city for the first time not too long ago. My first impression? Well, to be honest, the fairy land-ish picture in my mind was shattered merely to give way reality poverty, traffic, pollution and crime. The sights and sounds that I thought I knew fell short by a huge margin. I was disappointed and grudgingly came to accept the reality of my situation that of living in the largest city of a third world country.
Soon enough, however, I realised that the charm that my father spoke of was there I just needed to look really hard because it is not as obvious anymore as it was in my father's time. I realised that it is, after all, human nature to remember the good things and forget all things bad (and admittedly things are worse now then they were then). This is the secret to loving the city or anything for that matter. Forget the power failures, insufferable traffic and strikes. Instead, remember the breezy evenings spent on terraces during black-outs, the sense of empathy that you share with others stuck alongside you in traffic, or the happiness you feel when an exam is cancelled thus, resulting in a holiday owing to a cricket match in the city.
Learning to love Karachi is a phenomenon in itself. It can either be love at first sight or you can brood over it and take months to feel a connection. Sooner or later, however, the love does come. It happened for me the day I understood this quintessential Karachi fact.
To use an age-old adage, Karachi is a lifestyle. To love it, you simply need to live it. And that is exactly what I did. I found that what the city lacks in its appearance, it makes up in its rare, random acts of kindness by complete strangers. Or the resilience (some called it desensitisation but I am a romantic at heart, you see) exhibited by the citizens of the city every time terror unleashes itself.
You know what's funny though? When friends and family who live in lands far-away ask me about the city, I find myself talking about Karachi the same way my father used to talk about it. I tell them that the city welcomes all like a gracious host and expects nothing in return.
By Sabeen Jamil
Eleven-year-old Marium, who has been given the title of 'wonder baby' for her interesting athletic feats while twirling the hula hoop, juggling the rings and moving briskly on the sticks 11 feet above the ground, is just like any other child her age, with a slight difference of course she is more aware of her surroundings than other kids. Having been trained by her father at home since she was six, Marium has been performing her skills in public for four years now. Since then, she has won 45 awards and certificates and has performed in different concerts, events and ceremonies at various educational institutes in Pakistan. Through her skills, Marium was also able to raise funds for the victims of the October 8 earthquake. Not only this but also she got a scholarship from Sardar Ali Sabri Memorial Society. "She is promoting a softer image of Karachi," Marium's parents proudly claim. "And she an inspiration to a lot of children her age," they continue, adding that when Marium twirls the hula hoop (four to seven at a time) round her waist with lights emitting out the funky hat on her head, she inspires other children to do great things also.
"Most children my age ask me to teach them to twirl the hula hoop and move on sticks the way I do," explains Marium. She says she would if she had the time or even the space at home to coach children. "One needs a lot of space to twirl the hula hoop and to juggle the rings that is not possible in my home," Marium herself learnt the sport in a small room in her flat that was especially dedicated for the purpose. However, it cannot cater to more than one person at a time practicing the sport, which is deemed to make a child healthy. "Such sports, especially hula hoop, are considered the norm for children in other countries where sports are considered necessary for the healthy upbringing of a child," says Marium's family, adding that in Pakistan it is the exact opposite because there are neither enough trainers for such sports, nor enough facilities for children to learn.
Having said that, Marium and her family plan to set up a society dedicated to such sports, especially the hula hoop. "We want to train a team of children to represent Pakistan in hula hoop next Olympics," says Marium adding that they have even applied to the CDGK for the approval of the society. After that the family aims to convince the government to dedicate a place for this sport where the wonder girl herself can train other children. "If this is done, we will hopefully be representing Pakistan in the next Olympics," Marium believes. However, she says that if the present local government system is abolished, her efforts would go to waste. "It is always very easy for us to approach officials in this system," seconds Marium family "which may not be the case if a change takes place," they add.