KARACHI: Prior to Eidul Fitr, the city commissioner imposed Section 144 around the seaside of Karachi. The fact that it was done just when people were expected to come out of their houses in droves anticipating a festive atmosphere did not come as a surprise. There was a good, solid reason for it: if one were to single out a place where Karachiites –– mainly belonging to the non-district South neighbourhoods –– love to visit on official holidays, it’s the beaches. And in these extremely challenging times when the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to remain indoors, it would have been disastrous to have hundreds of men, women and children huddling on the shimmering white Seaview sand that these days looks so clean as if no human has ever set foot on it.
But there were many who were not aware of the restriction order, and there are always some who, order or no order, love to rev up the engines of their vehicles and visit the Arabian Sea. It was wise of the authorities to block, beforehand, almost all the small streets that lead to Seaview from Defence Phase V. They put up four to five-feet tall concrete barriers at the mouth of each street so that no car or motorcycle could go past them. A team of policemen was also placed on duty on the other side of the barriers — who, by the way, have been there ever since the lockdown was imposed doing a tremendous job. They are also front-line fighters in the fight against the disease, stopping people from congregating in the city.
Let’s hope the virus will go away so that Karachiites will be able to return to their sea
But can one blame the people? They’ve been starving for entertainment for two months now. So on the second, third and fourth days of Eid (the latter, too, being a public holiday) families and young men in groups came out in their cars and motorbikes to spend some time at the seaside. Not to be. Every turning that would have led them to the Seaview road was blocked. Still, they would get off their vehicles and ask the policemen on the other side of the divide as to what was going on. To the credit of police-wallahs, they were cordial enough to tell the fun-seekers they couldn’t go to the beach.
What was a bit emotional to see was that some of those who were disallowed to enter the restricted zone, stood at the barriers and looked at the sea wistfully, letting the cool sea breeze touch their souls. This was a sight one would never have even imagined to see in the Sindh capital.
Let’s hope things will start looking up soon and the virus will go away so that Karachiites will be able to return to their sea.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020