FOOTPRINTS: LEFTOVERS AT DO DARYA

Published June 1, 2018
AMONG the ruins of the demolished Do Darya restaurants lie memories of elegant family meals.—Photo by Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
AMONG the ruins of the demolished Do Darya restaurants lie memories of elegant family meals.—Photo by Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

THERE was a time not so long ago when people had to wait for hours for a table at a Do Darya restaurant. Where once they used to call in earlier to make reservations, now they call in advance to check if their favourite eatery is still standing.

Today, the Do Darya restaurant strip in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Phase VIII wears a deserted look, even though a few restaurants yet remain. The ruins of demolished establishments speak of a ghost town. Some of the skeletons have been covered with tent sheets, or kanatein, but the sea wind has them flapping away and the nakedness is plain to see. Amongst the heaps of rubble, broken glass, wooden pillars, tables, chairs, pots, pans and dishes, and a forlorn a line of rusting gas cylinders, lie memories of elegant family get-togethers. Where once parking valets would come running up to help park your car at the crowded seaside food street, today there is space everywhere.

Do Darya was different from other eateries in that it overlooked the flowing waters. There was the ocean on either side of Bundal Island, which gave the place its name — Do Darya, or the place where two rivers meet. From the deck and balconies of the restaurants one could see boats from the nearby Marina Club and fishing boats pass silently by. This place used to be a must-visit for tourists. “I last visited the place with cousins during my stay in Karachi in November,” muses a Rawalpindi resident upon hearing of the demolition work. “Was that my last time having food at Do Darya?”

“DHA did this to our Itwaar Bazaar too,” says a resident of the area who preferred the Sunday Bazaar to the malls for groceries. “It was there one Sunday and there was nothing there the next.”

There is a lot of speculation about why Do Darya is being dismantled. Among the reasons people cite are ‘the area is needed for the construction of high-rises’, ‘the bustle is seen as a nuisance’, ‘commercial activity there invites undesirable elements’, ‘their contracts with DHA ran out’, etc. Some wonder what high-rises can be raised on such a narrow strip. Still, for a long time, it has been clear: Do Darya was not going to last long.

The shore is one of the best places from which to watch the sunrise and sunset. It is not uncommon to find people at the beach saying their Maghrib prayers without even needing to listen to the call for prayer. As such, what is left of Do Darya’s eateries are currently favoured for iftaar meals — the guests are there to enjoy what they can, while they can.

At one such iftaar one of the guests asks a waiter what he will do once the restaurant closes down. The waiter smiles and shrugs: “We are here till Eid at least,” he says. “And we’re hearing good things for after that, too. We may be here for another two years.” A parking valet backs the claim: “Yes, we are hearing that the remaining restaurants here are renewing their contract with the DHA for another two years.” The manager of one of these eateries also nods quietly. “Many couldn’t stand the pressure and left,” he says laconically, “but those who went to court and got stay orders are still here and in no mood to leave, not for the next two years at least.”

When contacted, DHA authorities were not available for comment. “In their effort to play down the matter, earlier this month the DHA didn’t even allow media coverage of a golf tournament at the DHA Golf Club, because it happens to be very near Do Darya,” comments a sports journalist. “They must have been worried that the media would pass through the area and see what’s happening there. So they sent out WhatsApp messages to us saying that the closing ceremony of the event would be a low-key affair without media coverage.”

The eventual fate of Do Darya remains to be seen. Since the restaurants that remain are in litigation, they don’t want to talk, and the DHA doesn’t entertain questioning anyway. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2018

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