Karachi notebook: The morning school run

Updated February 07, 2019

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DROPPING the kids off to school is a daily ritual for many parents who don’t rely on vans.—White Star
DROPPING the kids off to school is a daily ritual for many parents who don’t rely on vans.—White Star

DROPPING off the kids to school in the morning is indeed a challenging task. It’s nowhere near to what it was 30 years back when we were going to school.

Going to school used to be an adventure. We spent a lot of time in the school bus, making friends, discussing homework or the upcoming test/exams or on a calmer day, simply falling asleep for the 30-minute ride. Seats were allocated and every child had a place to sit. The bus ride also took us to various neighbourhood of the city, allowing us children to see the concrete fabric of Karachi. I remember on our way to our school in the Saddar area, we used to pass contingents of army personnel, busy in their morning jogs and exercises.

The bus driver was our beloved ‘uncle’. The conductor was the manager, or ‘bhai’, helping the children haul their back-breaking bags into the bus and off it. On our way back in the afternoon, we used to greet various vendors from the windows of our transportation, clutching our lunch money and buying the garbage that today I wouldn’t dream of going near to. Our immune systems were way better in those days!

It was all one very happening childhood. And I miss giving the same opportunity to my children now that their time is here.

Times are different and with the evolving winds of change, I now find myself driving my children to their school in a car. The need for such transportation is derived more from our growing sense of insecurity. With so many tales of children being kidnapped and the rising traffic congestion, many parents, including myself, feel that this is the safest way. Interestingly, my parents used to travel to their school, in this very city, via the public transport system. It was their aim to provide school bus transportation for their children so that the hassle of standing, waiting for the public bus and going to school is eased. Security in a school bus was certain what with only children in the seats and no outsiders present. And now, with security concerns paramount, I feel it best to drive my children to their school.

After leaving home at the designated time, it’s weaving through the jungle of cars of all sizes and strengths, rushing through to make it before the school gate closes. And in between, breaking a dozen traffic rules, honking no end, avoiding traffic jams, and holding back curses, Lord forbid, if the children add them to their vocabulary. But children’s curiosity knows no bounds. “Daddy, why are you honking so much?” “Why are you waving your hands?”

The ride to school is a great bonding time for me. I get to talk to my daughters, listen to the music on the radio and at exam time, help them revise for their assessments. With a nine-to-six office, it’s a good time for us to talk and reflect.

Still, I feel the time I spent travelling in the school bus, the friends made and the friendships that remain to this day, are something that cannot happen when travelling to school in your own private car. I wonder if I will be able to introduce my children to that social fabric that I fondly remember to this day.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2019