Khana Wala

Decoding a Pakistani’s dream from Kalakot, Lyari

AUGUST 12, 2018


Decoding a Pakistani’s dream from Kalakot, Lyari

AUGUST 12, 2018
What have we given them in return? They still live in poverty, still work very
hard and are still struggling to make a living.

I am as old as my country because my father said that I was born “jab Pakistan
bana tha”, (when Pakistan came into being, 1947) said Haji Allah Bux, the ‘khanay-
wala’ from Kalakot, Lyari, Karachi. He has carried Tiffin containers to offices since he
was 15 years of age and to this day, does the same. Allah Bux calls me ‘Baba’ because I was just about 8 years old, he was 15 and my late brother Francis was 18 when he started carrying his lunch container from our home in Saddar to the American Express Bank on McLeod Road. Being in school, I would not meet him during his 11 am pick-up time but would wait for him at 5.00 pm – simply to marvel at his dazzling bicycle with a galore of accessories. How I longed to have one of my own!
His bicycle would be full of tiffin containers, both sides, a few in front as well –
about 30 or so. I asked him how much he would earn for this service. “Us waqt
zamana acha tha, hamein panch rupay phi tiffin milta tha, aur hum khush
thay” (those days were good, we would get Rs.5 per tiffin and were happy) he said. Rs. 150 per month was quite a sum then for a man from the slums of
Karachi and probably the reason having enough money to always dress well and
decorate his cycle!

His father Haji Maula Bux was a tiffin-carrier entrepreneur in the 1950s and
1960s, he had some delivery men in his enterprise, all carrying tiffins on donkey
carts to McLeod Road where mainly all the big offices and banks were, and many
towards the West Wharf area. No bicycles for the khanay-walas then.
“My father and his team of delivery men would deliver about 300 tiffins
everyday” says Allah Bux who used to ride the cart with his father and operate
from a central place close to Empress Market in Saddar. “It was very clean, few
buses, some cars, horse, camel and donkey carts, and always bustling with
friendly people” he says.

So when a little extra money was made, his father bought a bicycle for himself to
increase his customer base and efficiency; and by the time Allah Bux was 15
years of age, he was ready to take on the mantle, so he got a bicycle too. When
he started carrying tiffins, it was Ayub Khan’s regime, his new cycle cost Rs.110/-
only so he bedecked it with loads of accessories. “Puray Karachi mein, meri
cycle sab se achi thee”, (my bicycle was the best in Karachi) he said with pride.
He talks of Pakistan that was; a country on the path of progress, prosperity,
recognized and appreciated by global leaders, he recalls the Jackie Kennedy
visit and other world leaders who would frequently visit Pakistan. Being on the
road all the time, he remembers the fanfare and euphoria of that time. “Ab wo
zamana nahin hai” (that time is no more) he regrets.

But Haji Allah Bux is happy, now almost 70 years of age but lean and fit as ever.
He loves his ‘chai’ (tea) and recalls when it was for 2 annas only! “That was our
only lunch break during delivery and pick-up times,” he says. Meeting him
after so many years made me ponder; perhaps, he cannot afford to buy a new bicycle or decorate it or buy new clothes any more, yet he displays the Pakistan
flag on his bike with pride. Why this inequality? In his heydays, he would cover approximately 25 kilometers per day on his cycle, or 625 kilometers per month, that is 7500 kilometers of cycling per year, and by that counts must have cycled 375,000 kilometers during his 50 years as ‘khanay-wala’.

May God bless citizens like Haji Allah Bux who have toiled all their lives, truly
with their sweat and blood to make Pakistan their homeland! But the question is,
what have we given them in return? They still live in poverty, still work very hard
and are still struggling to make a living
But he is happy, has time to talk patiently about the past, take a sip of tea and
has hopes and dreams for his family and the country. It’s probably the right time
for Pakistan to turn to a new page, usher in an era of justice, fair play, provision
of basic amenities and true freedom. That’s all citizens like Allah Bux ask for.
Happy Independence Day!


About Amin H. Karim MD

Graduate of Dow Medical College Class of 1977.
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