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Things that make one smile in Karachi

July 26, 2012

traffic jam, karachi, cars, street
Photo by Eefa Khalid/Dawn.com

The headline itself would make many say that I am crazy. Or that it’s an oxymoron at best. But believe me when I tell you that I have seen things and experienced emotions that immediately bring your faith back and make you say yes, we Karachiites are human and not entirely Neanderthals from the Stone Age.

One of the few things that I hold in awe on the streets of Karachi is the traffic police — the men in white. Now wait a minute. We all know the reputation they enjoy: not really interested in regulating traffic but more interested in making a fast buck! But there’s a more human side to them as well. Managing traffic at busy intersections, ensuring that the flow continues, and that too whilst standing in the middle of a road where inconsiderate motorists don’t take their hands off the horn is no easy job.

Then there’s the vehicle exhaust and the inconsolable abuse that is vented in their direction.

Yet we see them in weather hot and humid, cold and rainy, making sure that things keep smooth and running. Even when there is a political rally in progress, these are the guys who keep the alternative routes open and free. But the best that we see of these traffic police officers is during the month of Ramazan. Take, for example, the busy intersections of Shaheen Complex and PIDC.

The traffic flow in the hours leading up to iftar is such that most people appear to have gone berserk. However, some semblance of order is maintained only due to the efforts of the traffic police. Otherwise, we know where there aren’t any traffic constables, most of us start looking for a short cut. In the absence of any voluntary civic order on our streets, it is the men in white who help a mother and her children, the elderly and schoolchildren cross the roads. However, at times more considerate drivers do stop their cars to allow the waiting pedestrians to cross.

Of course manners are something that we aren’t famous for. Giving way to someone else is definitely looked down upon. But every once in a while, someone comes and does show a bit of patience. And it’s even more astounding if the car has a government number plate.

karachi, sea, clifton
Photo by Eefa Khalid/Dawn.com

Whilst crossing an intersection at the Sea View road, I noticed a government car approach from the opposite direction. I stopped, expecting the gentleman to speed off, without giving a hoot for the people on the road. But shockingly, the ‘GP’ number plate sedan stopped and dipped its headlights in a signal to me that I could pass before him. A jaw-dropping experience indeed.

Karachi is a diverse city and people tend to live in their own hamlets. On the roads, though people usually display their worst behaviour, sometimes motorists can astound by resorting to unexpected civility. It’s all something that makes one smile and thank God that yes, some humanity still exists in us.—Atifuddin Khan