Karachi: An aspect of Social Change


Muhammad Ali works as a message carrier for a local firm. He delivers their mail on a motorbike. In the evenings he drives a taxi which he owns. He bought it under the Yellow Cab Scheme. His parents come from the Pushto speaking area of Hazara district but he was born in Karachi. His father was a driver and eventually became a taxi owner. Muhammad Ali studied till F.A. The family finally settled in Shireen Jinnah Colony where Muhammad Ali was married to Sakina. Sakina’s father is a bajjri contractor and owns two trucks. The marriage was arranged by their parents but Muhammad Ali laid down one condition. He wanted to marry an educated girl and Sakina was one of the few girls in the community who had done her matric. After marriage a separate room was built in the family home of Muhammad Ali for the young couple. After four years of marriage, the couple could not have any children. There was pressure on Muhammad Ali to take another wife since children are considered as the purpose for getting married. Muhammad Ali resisted this pressure but life became very difficult for Sakina. Finally, Muhammad Ali decided to move from Shireen Jinnah Colony to Dehli Colony. Sakina’s mother decided to move with the young couple since Sakina’s father had got married again. It was not easy to get a house in Dehli Colony since Muhammad Ali was a Pukhtoon but as he says “money can get you almost every thing but happiness”. After living two years in Dehli Colony, Sakina gave birth to a girl child. The child is not with them on the Sea Wall. She is at home with her grandmother. Sakina is dressed in a white shalwar, a long blue kurta and a white dupatta which covers the back part of her brown hair.

Me:                 Why did you not agree to get married again when your elders pressurised you?

MA*:                Sakina has been a good wife to me. She and I have shared a lot of things which only educated people can share. I did not wish to destroy the peace of my house and complicate her life for no fault of hers. I am thankful that God has given me a daughter.

Me      :           But do you not want a son?

MA:                 Of course I do but if I do not have one then my daughter’s sons will be my sons. After she was born we could not believe that it had happened. We just looked at her in amazement and kept thanking God. She has given us happiness. 

Me      :           What do you wish for her?

MA:                 I want her to be educated. To become a doctor. To live in a decent place and marry a good man.

Me      :           Will you marry her within your community?

MA:                 I would prefer to. But in my community there are not many educated people. She will be educated so she should marry someone who respects her education and allows her to work as a doctor. So I would even consider to marry her to someone from another community if he is a good man.  

Me:                 What about her wishes? What if she does not wish to become a doctor or marry someone you choose?

MA:                 Times are changing. People are deciding things for themselves. This is both good and bad. I will respect her sentiments – I think so. God knows how things will be 10 to 15 years from now when she is grown up. 

Me      :           Can I ask your wife a few questions?

MA      :           Why not. You are her elder.

Me      :           Was there opposition to your receiving an education?

Sakina:           Yes, everyone objected but my mother fought it out. It is because of her that I was able to study. Also, she told me to always read the newspapers whenever we could get hold of one. Our system is quite difficult. There are so many jealousies that prevent people from having good and peaceful lives. I have suffered due to this and now because we live separately we are happy but the jealousies have increased as a result. We can ignore them now but only to an extent.    

Me      :           Why do you come to the Sea Wall?

Sakina:           “He” works from 9 in the morning to 12 at night every day so that we can have a good life. On Sunday he does not work and we spend it together as a family. We do not only come here but go to other places as well. It is a break and when our daughter is older we will have to take her out also. We cannot wait for that day.

Me      :           Do you visit your village at all?

Sakina            :           I have never been but “he” has visited it a few times. 

Me      :           Do you like going there?

MA:                 I do not feel at home there but one has to when someone dies or gets married. I doubt if the generation after me will ever go there. It is a different society from Karachi.

Me      :           What would you like to see in Karachi that could improve your lives?

MA:                 The roads are terrible. Always full of dirty water. The shock absorbers of my taxi are ruined within no time. Also, the police causes problems. This should stop. Then there are the usual problems: expensive petrol, no electricity, no water. This should change. The rest is OK but some places for recreation like this one are required. They are too few so they are over-crowded like this place. Where there is too much congestion you cannot enjoy things. This is becoming the problem. Then Karachi is not safe. Anything can happen to a taxi driver. I have been robbed at gun point and lost my days earnings three times. My wife does not rest in peace till I return home. This problem is the most serious. 

Me      :           Do you watch TV? And what do you watch?

MA:                 We watch a lot of channels. News, films, science also. We learn a lot of things. But the TV has bad things in it also.  

Me:                 (to Sakina) Do you think your daughter will face the same problems as you did?

Sakina:           No. Times have changed. But problems will always be there. They will be different but she will not be tormented by her elders as we were.

*MA: Muhammad Ali

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