The people of Karachi run to Seaview just like a mullah runs to the mosque. When it gets terribly hot or rains, when a storm is about to hit the shores, whether it’s a holiday, an unannounced strike or even New Year’s Eve, the young and the old all head towards the seashore. And the sea awaits everyone with open arms, just like Karachi does. Here, there is neither discrimination nor differences. It envelopes everyone in its embrace like our Karachi!
Those tired of the noise and chaos in the city, or if they find themselves lost in a crowd, will be found sitting on the bench next to yours at Seaview. The embrace of the sea sees all men as equal and gives them a place in its heart; wiping one’s tears, giving solace to another. Whether it is in a sweltering afternoon, a breezy evening, or a floating night, people keep visiting the sea.
It doesn’t matter if the city is in mourning or echoes with the noise of bullets. The sea remains overjoyed as usual, singing in its waves and entertaining everyone who visits.
A married couple comes to the sea to escape from their one-room house inhabited by the entire family in some densely populated neighbourhood. Let alone spending a moment or two of privacy with each other, they can barely get a chance to make eye contact at home. So they come to Seaview, where at least they can exchange the intimacy of an affectionate gaze and spend some time alone.
On another bench, a brand new lover is sitting with his partner making false promises of bringing down the moon and stars for her from the night sky. An elderly couple sits on another bench who are now spending their remaining lives together in a silence that needs no explanations, after having spent their entire lives paving good futures for their children.
Many people arrive with their entire families or neighbourhood in tow. They have a car with a deck blasting some discordant song. A banquet has also been laid out for their picnic. They bring the city’s noise with them and leave the atmosphere polluted with noise and the beach with rubbish.
There are camels and horses adorned with decorations available for the entertainment of the women and children who visit. But since the last few years, new rides have begun at Seaview. There is one that is similar to a three-wheel motorcycle, while another is known as the ‘disco gari’ that takes whole families for rides across the beach, polluting the sea breeze and the view with its jarring noise and flying dirt. Yet, at night its blinking lights make the view a bit more colourful. But the noise always overpowers the lights.
This is Inamullah, the expert driver of this ‘disco gari’. He drives himself if there is available seating space. When no seats are available, he becomes the conductor and relinquishes the control of the vehicle to one of the passengers. He comes from Keamari, is a Pathan and is 11 years old. This child, dressed in dirty, disheveled clothes, has been driving this vehicle for two years and takes Rs 100 for each ride. You can only guess how many rides he gives on his vehicle in a single day. He doesn’t wish to tell how much he earns in one day. But if you do some calculations, you will realise that he earns more than you and I do. On one hand, our graduates are still searching for jobs since the last five years in this time of unemployment, and on the other, is this child, who has started earning before he has grown up.
When the coastline became a commodity during Musharraf’s rule, the buyers were out to buy this stretch of the coast. Most of the coastline beyond this area was sold but this stretch, popularly known as ‘Seaview’ was saved by our activists, artists, writers, intellectuals and other members of the civil society through numerous protests and processions. This is the only place in the city where the majority comes for a low-cost entertainment. The rich have many places to go to for entertainment. The poor man can’t even spend time with his bride at home and to do so, he must turn towards the sea. If he has children too, then you can see him riding a motorcycle to Seaview with the entire family sitting behind him on their miniscule vehicle.
The DHA officials had attempted to set up expensive eateries on Seaview but probably didn’t succeed as the visitors could not afford to buy from such eateries. Now, the entire beach is lined with small-time vendors and pushcarts selling their wares. People eat and drink the entire day and ‘chill’ at Seaview. But in the morning the beach presents a completely different scene. The followers of the ‘safaai nisf emaan hai’ diktat leave their ‘nisf emaan’ in mountains of rubbish at the beach after every visit. Whether they even possess residual ‘nisf emaan’, only their God knows. The ocean is vast and deep but its heart is larger than that, which is why it never says anything. Occasionally, the youth of the city come to the beach to clean it up, or DHA employees in orange clothes come to sweep up the litter.
When the day comes out from the night’s womb, when the dawn arrives and the morning star peeks out from the dark curtain of the night, it is time for the sea and I to meet. Neither the sea nor I are fond of speaking. So we both sit and watch each other in silence. I am lost in the melodious tunes of the sea while the sea listens to the roaring ocean within me. When the birds start chirping, I sit on the bench, dancing within to their melodies.
Slowly, the dawn takes over the dark and the voices that can be heard at night: “chai walah”, “paapar le lo”, “cake piece”, bhuttay”, “chips” etc are all found on nearby benches fast asleep. They spend the entire day and half the night selling their wares in order to sustain themselves and their families and come from all over Pakistan seeking employment in Karachi. The ocean is also looking after them. They all sleep here at night. The fishermen arrive first on their bicycles. Then they are joined by cleaners dressed in orange clothes. The last to arrive are the real residents of the Seaview area who visit the beach for their morning walks.
Then a man selling tea and breakfast arrives on his bicycle, he also has biscuits and buns. There is a man who usually comes to the beach for his morning walk. His arrival causes a stir amongst all the cleaners. The sleeping vendors have woken up by then and salute this man enthusiastically. The tea vendor gets orders for tea and breakfast for all the vendors and cleaners. By then, the sun begins to peek out from behind the Seaview apartments and I leave for home to spend another day, where a pile of newspapers soaked in the bloody news of the previous day awaits me on the doorstep.
Read this blog in Urdu
The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.