In 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 anyone either.

“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.

 Even 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. 

A rinse by the sea 
By Meena Ahmed

Carrying 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.

 Kamraiz 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.  

Time for change
By Zeeshan Azmat

Sitting 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.

 Because 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. 

Giving life to sand
By Sidrah Roghay

Ahmed 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 thousand rupees.

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.”


For your convenience
By Ammar Shahbazi

If 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 on commission.

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.

Qaiser 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”.




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