By: Priyanka Rajani
KARACHI.: There are secrets that lie in the midst of a throbbing, convoluted Karachi. Secrets hidden in entire acres of land that no one knows about. In a city where areas are known by the number of blasts and killings, this is hardly surprising.
One such secret is Ghazi Goth.
This residential area, a 20-minute rickshaw ride away from Orangi Town, mostly holds 100-plus yard houses, inhabited by single women of all kinds – Punjabi, Baloch, Muhajir, Bengali and Sindhi. Strangely, they all gravitate towards this area, claiming it as their own – and there are more daughters than sons in each house.
The men are mostly dead
Many of the men of these women were once factory workers who developed health problems due to their working conditions.
A few still alive lay in some corner of the house, unable to provide because of injuries sustained at factories.
Visitors, rare and awaited, are shown x-rays and medical certificates these women clutch on to.
“He can’t work, and I do what I can. Just look at the xrays,” says one resident, shoving forth medical slides.
Sakina Bibi, an old resident, had two older sons who abandoned her just as they were old enough to work – one is a plumber, the other is an electrician. They don’t contribute, they don’t visit.
In this far corner of the city, beyond an area dominated by gangs who cordon off routes leading to the locality at the first sign of trouble, women abandoned by their men huddle together to share in each others sorrows.
Not an easy life
Sakina Bibi is one of the few lucky home-owners in the area. Her husband died, leaving her with a coveted pakka makaan, four daughters and two very young sons, one of whom is mentally challenged. Today, she and her offspring make embroidered patches for chappals.
“We, the seven people who live in this house, survive on Rs6,000 a month,” she says quietly. “A contract employer provides me with the material to make a chappal patch at the fixed rate of three rupees per piece.”
The contractor drops by once a month to collect the final products. The women working for him have no further knowledge about the product, and no means to step out of Ghazi goth to find out.
Aziza is the oldest resident of the area, and was amongst the first few women to move here years ago. She makes bangles for a living. Her husband, although alive and in the house, is too sick to do anything. The only other male in the house is a 6 month old child, mostly asleep, thanks to a dose of naswaar administered by one of his sisters.
An island in a metropolis
Disturbingly, the only connection this town has to the rest of the city comes through political workers and contract employers.
The politically charged individuals reach these areas before anyone else, canvassing for votes. In fact, many of the residents rent houses from party workers, who give them away for very cheap – as low as Rs800 a month – simply for votes.
And yet, on the upside, the fact that Ghazi Goth is so cut off makes it one of cleanest neighborhoods in the city. There is no garbage lining the streets, no empty wrappers flying around. The streets are bare, with only open gutters, flies and stray dogs to be seen between the few barefoot children playing outside their houses. Political party posters add the only colour to the otherwise sand filled land. The closest shop is outside of Ghazi Goth.
Fighting the good fight
What stands out the most is the practical outlook on life that these women share.
While they don’t miss an opportunity to narrate tales of sorrow, they also don’t wait around for someone to solve their problems.
In this vein, Aziza puts her bangle collection on display within seconds. Before you know it, a direct sale has been made.
Despite living in a corner of Karachi with no security options, some of them still manage to send their children to government schools.
“Karna to parayga,” says Aziza, a resilient glint in her eye. “What must be done, must be done.”