Tuesday June 18, 2024

Braving the unkind world

By Ibne Ahmad
May 27, 2024
Men rest under a bridge during a heatwave in Karachi on June 29, 2015.– AFP
Men rest under a bridge during a heatwave in Karachi on June 29, 2015.– AFP

Farooq Haider, a vagabond sells cold water at Khanna Bridge wagon stop for two square meals. To earn his daily sustenance, he quenches the thirst of people, and in doing so; he usually takes a round of every arriving vehicle to lure the passengers of the wagon/Su­zuki/flying coach into buying a glass of water from him for just one-rupee coin. Generally, the drivers or conductors are his customers, but sometimes, the passengers also become his customers.

“On the days when the sun is roasting, he finds a lot of customers. On a customer-less day, he beseeches customers to buy a glass of water. On finding none, if somebody out of pity gives him some coin in charity he is never willing to accept. He constantly insists that the one showing pity towards him should first accept a glass of water from him,” says Nadeem Hussain, a passenger.

“Homeless, he sleeps in the corridor of a market. However, the police chase him out and now he sleeps in the open. Farooq and thousands like him are defenceless against the extreme heat and cold and have to sleep out in the open,” says Safdar Abbas. “I have no choice but to sleep in the open under the sky. I have migrated from NWFP and have been looking for a job. Nevertheless, despite my best efforts, I could not find a permanent job,” says Mehboob Hussain, another cold-water seller.

“Like me, all my friends are losing their energy facing harsh weather conditions. Even after best efforts, they could not find a job and had no option but to sell water and face the horrible weather. There are no night shelters for people like us. The police drive us away from railway platforms and marketplaces. Where shall we keep our meagre bedclothes,” adds Mehboob.

“We have to find a place to answer the call of nature. In summer, we spend nights in the lap of the open sky as nobody is there among the human beings to embrace us. In winter during the night, we light up a bonfire of waste material to keep ourselves warm. Even the stray dogs come closer to us and we let them be with us as they give us their warmth as we don’t expect it from humankind,” says Salman Shabbir.

Zafar Naqvi, a doctor says, “People talk of power cuts, cold and hot weather, change in school timings but no one talks of these homeless people. Why does the government have to spend money on useless things? They should build night shelters for us. However, who cares? The NGOs too are not bothered. They can spend a lot of money on arranging various functions, but will not do anything for homeless people who are living under trying conditions.