The Park

  • Park (Olympian Iftikhar Syed Park ) Gulshan Iqbal block 6, Karachi
  • Maryam Qureshi

On 16th September, Friday. Right after I reached home from University, I informed my mother that we will be going to the park nearby. We used to go their quite often during summer vacations but haven’t visited the park since the school re-opened. To make my trip even more observant, walking to the park was the best solution. It is a 10 minutes walk from my house to the park, while we were walking me and my mother were discussing that how soothing it is to walk while you can hear birds chirping and rustling of the leaves. And what came between our discussion was a rikshaw horn as it came near us and a young boy of around 20-25 years asked ‘Baji kidhar jana hai’ (Sister, where do you want to go) as women are not allowed usually to step out of their home without a male companion and it is also assumed that women walking alone maybe searching for a public transport as this is what happens commonly. But we refused his offered and continued walking.

Sky started to turn darker and we reached the park, bought the tickets from the counter while mom was searching for 5 Rupees coin in her purse, the man sitting at the counter said ‘Ab tou 5 ka sikka bhi chota krdia hai, asani se nahi milta’ and me and my mom laughed. As we entered the park, I was continuously taking deep breaths while smelling the aroma of wet sand which smells better than many expensive perfumes meanwhile call for Maghrib prayers began which was very loud and clear due to the mosque which is connected to the park. While I covered my head with duppata in the respect of Azaan, mom exclaimed ‘Nature has its own charm, yet we the modern people lock up ourselves in the artificial world’. We usually used to take 7-8 rounds of the track, today we rather decided to sit and observe. While walking on pavements made with red bricks which were laid throughout the park with grass everywhere. Searching for an empty bench to sit as whole place was crowded with people of different age groups. At last found a place to sit and start observing. As the entrance to the mosque is through the park, I was able to see men and children rushing towards the mosque and Ladies of every age reached a sitting area to offer there prayers even though praying outside in open areas is not common in our culture, my mum joined them too. It gives off such a nice feeling to see people leaving their activities and giving their time to their Creator. A jumping castle was placed almost near at the boundary of the park and besides that there was a kiddy pool area where kids were buying passes for the jumping castle and were taking of their shoes as they jumped on to the jumping castle. Other kids were busy taking slides, fighting for their turns on the swings and eating popcorns and fries. Mothers were yelling at their kids to be careful and not to run.

Right in front of my bench were Taekwondo kids who were dressed up in their white coats and trousers attentively listening to their instructor, lining up and while forming a line they started practicing. To my surprise, I saw a kid tip toing on his tiny feet waiting for his turn. While instructor gave some orders in a different language, which I searched later and they turned out to be some Korean words.

An injured kid was standing nearby hiding behind his mother and mumbling something which I was unable to hear. I immediately ran to that kid and asked his mother what happened to which she answered a long story “It was supposed to be his final practice today but he fell from stairs two days ago and injured himself due which he can not take part in any of his practices. Doctor prescribed staying at home but Yahya(her son) was crying so I brought him here” Yahya was looking tired and hopeless as he saw his friends practicing and came to me “Will you practice with me when I will recover” The hope in his innocent question was so heart wrenching that without any second thought I answered “Yes Yahya, I will practice as soon as you recover”

As I picked up my bag, some old 80’s songs echoed in the background and that was shocking as you don’t get to hear such old songs these days except when you are with your grandparents. Turned around and noticed three old gentlemen having a conversation, the center one holding the radio while other two were having tea. It was surprising for me to encounter such lively people at an age when they are expected to stay at home and relax. I looked around like I have never looked before, World is a very different place if we start noticing. On that very moment I decided to sit and have a talk with them, I picked up my bag and rushed towards their bench; they noticed me and seemed eager. I greeted them and asked whether I can sit and have a conversation to which they agreed politely and gently. (Participant observation) I started by asking their names and telling what my purpose was. To which they laughed, while I kept thinking about what to discuss with them and suddenly I asked them about politics to which they replied ‘Hahaha lets talk about something better’ and they switched talking about their school days. That exultant smile when they started to discuss their school days was priceless. They started by discussing how enthusiastic they were to get education at that time and how kids these days are getting away from education. One of them exclaimed “When I was 14 years old, I borrowed few books from a friend and used to read them under the moonlight as we were so poor to even afford a proper place to live and there used to be no electricity, but still I was so eager for getting knowledge” this statement made me think for a while that how privileged kids are these days. Moving on, I asked them “What brings you to this park” to which one of the uncles answered “I bring my grandchildren, while they play and I enjoy the company of these two old friends” a sparkle of contentment and satisfaction was visible in his eyes when he pointed towards his grandchildren. The other one said “the chaos and the peace at the same time at this park is what bring me here every day” uncles ended the conversation because they had to leave for their homes. I thanked them for their precious time and said ‘Khuda Hafiz’.

By that time, hunger was taking over my thinking skills and I decided to buy some fries and juice from the canteen inside the park just beside the jumping castle. Walking at the pavements, making my way through the kids driving their remote controlled cars. Took a left turn right beside the basketball court, just beside the kiddy pool in which paddle boats (Image2) were moving and kids enjoying as they paddled the boat, a man was inflating a large transparent ball inside which a girl was standing, as it got completely inflated, the ball started to float over the water and everybody watched with astonishment and in no time a long queue formed to buy the tickets for a ride inside that ball. I walked towards the canteen and asked the person who works at the canteen for some fries and juice. I ran back to the kiddy pool area and enjoyed the view as I chewed fresh salted fries and took a sip from mango juice. I kept standing there, noticing parents helping their kids to get inside the boats, children laughing, guys playing football on my right and basketball on my left.

A chaotic yet a peaceful and full of life scene was continuously being filmed in my eyes; everything becomes important when one starts to notice. One of the biggest reasons to choose this location was the diversity I notice when I see African students playing football who usually come to Karachi for education and are mostly the students of Karachi University. On the other hand, Turkish families are also seen sitting on the grass enjoying evening tea and snacks just like other local families of Karachi.

Observing a place which I have visited on daily basis and yet have never observed it from a perspective which made everything more attractive, lively and striking. From the pavements on the floor to the laughter of those old gentleman, everything gave me so much meaning and different exposure to life.