certain affluent parts of Karachi, valet parking is known to be a free of
charge parking service. But in some places one needs to pay for the
privilege, otherwise you are politely asked to move on.
It is amazing to see how a bunch of enterprising people have changed
the whole concept of valet car parking, without any complaints from anyone.
Starting off as a simple
service offering parking to people coming to work in the morning, Haseeb Khan
along with three other friends thought of making a little money out of the
job as well.
Though most of what you see
on I.I.Chundrigar Road has stopped looking ‘unusual’ to people coming to
work there, the idea of paying for parking surprisingly does not bother
“We are charging very
little compared to what we should be, considering the lack of parking areas
available here,” shrugs Khan while squatting near a paan stall in the area.
Being charged Rs30 to 50,
the employers working at nearby banks and offices do not even get into debate
about whether they should be paying for parking or not.
“Where else would I park
my car,” asks a man walking quickly towards his car. “There are much
bigger issues to handle. They are saving people from getting into fist fights
for a parking spot, I think,” he adds sitting in his car.
though they have been mentioned in many newspaper articles, Khan believes
necessity will keep people away from removing them. “They need us more than
we need them,” he says happily.
“We are not robbers. We are just doing some welfare work for the people,” adds Haseeb before his friends burst out laughing, patting him on the back for making a wise comment.
water in blue containers, a slender man in his 40s appears at Clifton Beach
every day to make a living for his family of four in a most unusual way.
Kamraiz from Swabi sells water to visitors and charges Rs 10 per bottle –
not to quench his customers’ thirst but to wash the sand off their feet!
When his grateful customers
wash away the sticky sand from their feet, Kamraiz re-collects the empty
water bottles and places as many as possible around himself to advertise his
presence at the beach. “People who come to have fun at the beach want to
wash the sand off their feet before heading for home. I thought I would sell
water to these visitors. This is the only way I earn my living,” said
Kamraiz describing his unique service.
hires a rickshaw to cover a distance of almost eight kilometers every day to
head to the beach from Keamari, where he fills up his containers. Kamraiz
normally sells 20 to 30 bottles per day, collecting between Rs 200 to 300
every day starting in the afternoon and winding up late in the evening.
at the ‘bus adda’ in front of a small table displaying stacks of coins,
Muhammad Shah complains that his business is no longer as lucrative as it
used to be. Shah and others like him are involved in making a living by
‘selling’ coins to bus conductors in exchange for notes. For a Rs 20
note, they give back anything from Rs17 to Rs19 in loose change to be used
aboard their buses. The rate usually varies from place to place, depending
upon the number of commercial vehicles running on any particular route.
The reason business is slow
is simple, according to Shah. Coins have lost much of their value over the
years and giving exact change to passengers is no longer a priority.
Conductors now prefer to round off the amount rather than bother with
small change and passengers are less prone to complain. For example, if the
fare is Rs 19, the conductor charges Rs 20 or if it is Rs 21 he is happy to
charge a rupee less to avoid the hassle of dealing in change.
of this practice, conductors no longer utilise the services of the coin
providers like they once used to do. The only exception is now students, who
travel on concessionary fares. The conductors make sure to have the exact
change ready for them in order to avoid heated arguments.
life to sand
Hassan is bent over a half-made Taj Mahal. He carves it out of loose sand,
and patiently works on each curve with his fingers and a choc bar stick. Next
to his unfinished piece is a donation box; people crowd around him, watch him
create these pieces of joy, and art lovers drop in spare cash in the box.
From Friday to Sunday,
Hassan walks from his home in Neelum Colony, reaches the beach by one
o’clock and begins sculpting images from sand. But he works with a rule in
mind: “I destroy my sculptures after 24 hours. People crowd around me to
watch me work. They are not interested in the finished product as such.”
Hassan is self-taught,
‘God-gifted’ as he likes to put it, but there are days when he hears
hurtful comments from passers-by. “They say creating human faces is
un-Islamic,” but he continues unfazed, for he believes he is here to
exhibit his talent.
Each sculpture takes four
to five hours to create, and on a good day he earns about eight hundred to a
Despite, the apparent joy
in his work, he claims not to be happy with his life. “I wish I could get a
job, preferably in the government sector, but…..,” he pauses, “it
should be related to art.”
you feel like visiting the washroom at Karachi’s Cantt Station, whether it
is for washing your hands or to respond to nature’s call, Qaiser just
won’t let you in. No matter how urgent your condition is, he will stand in your way. Qaiser makes a living by
charging Rs 5 (a flat rate) from passengers who want to use the washroom at
the station. But he is just a cog on the chain of command that runs the
public toilet at Cantt Station. He works
To keep his job, he has to
make sure that every day at least 100 people get the urge to use the two
washrooms – for men and women - that he commands. Because at the end of his
shift, which runs for eight straight hours a day, he has to submit Rs. 500 to
his seth – the highest bidder who won ayear’s contract from the Cantt
administration to run the public toilets for Rs. 250,000.
Whatever is left after the
Rs 500 mark is crossed goes into Qaiser’s pocket. “I
make around 300-400 a day,” he said. Qaiser’s job includes keeping
the washroom clean and keeping an eye on the luggage of the passenger when
they go into the washroom.
sits at the entrance, with a handful of soiled rupee notes, praying
that he reaches the 500 mark as fast as possible. He is one of the very few
people who pray for the trains to be delayed, “because that keeps people at
the station waiting - and when they wait they eventually
have to respond to nature’s call”.