Corona has brought regulations upon regulations upon regulations … leading to headaches upon headaches upon headaches for hotels!
Can’t complain though- restricted regulations are still better than a complete lockdown, which we faced April to September.
Now, revised regulations restrict all indoor dining and activities but at least allow activities outside.
My grandfather’s foresight planned large outdoor spaces for our Beach Luxury Hotel by the sea in 1947; the Avari Lahore hotel in 1978; and the Avari Towers in 1985. Naturally, he had no knowledge about the calamity that would hit the world in 2020 then but his idea always was for large, green spaces.
In a city like Karachi, our so-called autumns & winters (whatever semblance of “winter” one can call it in Karachi 😊) make it absolutely outstanding to be outdoors and not cooped up in an a/c environment.
The other day my father and I dropped by for a coffee to Avari Towers. We made our way down to the gardens by the pool, which have been transformed into an all-day dining- menus from Fujiyama, Dynasty & Asia Live are available there. We thought we were sitting in some tropical paradise- with the trees, greenery, plants, tree overhangs, etc. Our Sky Grill restaurant continues operating for dinner on the roof of the Hotel, overlooking the lights of the sprawling metropolis.
At Beach Luxury, a full day conference (with social distancing, I might add) took place on our Seafront restaurant- the only open air, floating restaurant in Pakistan – which we use for our buffet dinners. In the past, we have used this venue for our breakfast and lunch buffets also – it is a sight for sleepy morning eyes to see the seagulls swoop down in Chinna Creek; school-going rowers in the first morning light (albeit being grumpy at having to awake at 5am 😊) on their Sculls, Doubles, Fours and Eights; the first morning fisherman throwing his net out in the dirty, still creek- to get small fish he can then sell to the large trawlers to use as bait … and if you come early enough, one of the best winter SUNRISES you can experience! Our Casbah restaurant, the freshest seafood grill, has had outdoor dining 365 days.
At Avari Lahore, our large lawns (which houses a small aviary too) now host our outdoor restaurants – Tollington combines Kims, Lakhnavi & Tollington menus; Dynasty & Fujiyama are combined at an adjacent garden venue. With ample space to spare, the other parts of the lawns are used for weddings & related events.
I may be proudly boasting but we are really happy of what our GMs & teams’ have created within the parameters of these Covid regulations & restrictions.
So, I tell you friends, we don’t look at the glass as “half empty” … rather, look at it as “half full”; these days shall also pass – maybe slowly, but pass they shall ! As my father quotes “Smile, & the World Smiles With You … Cry, & You Cry Alone”.
(End note: fat lot me giving such advice … by nature I’m one of the world’s greatest pessimists 😊 😊 😊)
Recently I heard Arif Hasan, planner, architect & activist (http://arifhasan.org/about-arif-hasan), on a Samaa News interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCb6OIWWsoo). The interview is an eyeopener and very insightful as Mr Hasan traces the roots of the problem, the history of our formal drainage systems, Karachi’s unchecked sprawl from the 1950s and especially 1970s leading to the drainage & sewer breakdown, we face currently. In identifying these problems, Mr Hasan implicitly provides the solutions too.
There are two courses of action required –
I have already addressed rain water harvesting & recycling;
Alongside this, the city’s RAIN WATER and SEWAGE DRAINAGE systems have to be urgently addressed on a professional basis.
Basically, Karachi needs to “get back to the drawing board” by using independent, non-partisan town planners and architects (like Arif Hasan himself). We have ONE YEAR lead time to fix the city- or at least be able to complete some of the main areas of the City – before the next rains hit us.
There are thousands of little drains – nullahs – (some naturally formed) which should feed into 64 large Nullahs which lead into Malir & Landhi Rivers, which in turn flow into the sea.
PROBLEM: When even one of these nullahs are blocked or stopped, it prohibits rainwater to flow into the sea- and instead, it floods the City. This is the root problem.
SOLUTION: So, firstly, the Entrance & Exit points of all Nullahs should remain undisturbed from encroachments, unplanned structures and debris.
PROBLEM: Next, when roads are being built, their drainage is also part of the scope. However, Arif Hasan points out that when the drains are made, they don’t lead anywhere – they end where the road ends … GO FIGURE! So, when the [so-called] drains fill up with rain – from the road itself – the overflow goes back onto the roads again … and … the “ROADS GET CONVERTED INTO NULLAHS”!
SOLUTION: So, the second action is that road drains must connect to the established nullahs, so there’s a formal route for the water to naturally flow into the sea (more on formal drains below).
PROBLEM: In the 1950s, Katchi Abadis (informal housing settlements) sprang up unchecked. There was no planning for their sewage drains, so the katchi abadis drained their sewage into Karachi’s nullahs…a practice which continues to this day. In the 1970s, when the formal housing schemes and neighborhoods were created, they continued the same practice of draining their sewage into rain water drains because no sewage drains or trunk sewers were planned … again, a practice that continues to this very day!
SOLUTION(s): So, thirdly, TRUNK SEWERS leading into FORMAL SEWER DRAINAGE SYSTEMS (& NOT into the rainwater drains) has to be planned & executed.
When this is done, all current formal Storm water drains must be cleaned off all the sewage sludge; all sewage outlets leading into such rain water drains removed and capped; and new storm water drains built to accommodate the City’s sprawl (it is massive task and a daunting one, at that). Storm water drains must ONLY be used for rain water drainage.
Each of these systems has to be physically separate and independent from each other – no one system should be able to lead into another system in case of a breakdown; each of these systems has to have its own failsafe mechanisms in place; have their own access points for repairs, replacements & maintenance in place; and have their dedicated teams ready to fix and clean them.
PROBLEM: The World Bank funded & completed a successful Sewage treatment plant in the 1990s. However, it never started operations. Why … because there were no trunk sewer systems designed or created to capture rainwater which would have flowed into the treatment plants; likewise, nothing was designed to capture the sewage (which instead was dumped into the rain water drains) to drain into such treatments plants either.
SOLUTION(s): Fourth- once these new Trunk Sewers and formal Sewage system captures all types of drains (be it rainwater or sewage), they should ONLY flow into Sewage treatment plants (plants…PLURAL); and then they should flow into new nullahs connecting to Malir & Lyari rivers.
Malir & Lyari rivers themselves need to be dredged and maintained to accept this drainage.
A recycling solution also lies in utilizing waste from treatment plants (after being treated) for watering the City’s green belts instead of letting it flow into the sea.
SOLUTION(s): So, we need to create large swaths of “green areas”;
We have to breakdown this concrete jungle and rebuild public areas with gardens and trees;
Town planning has to be formalized, professionalized and held accountable;
Katchi abadis may very well have to be relocated (like the successful Lyari/Orangi resettlement project) into new, formal neighborhoods- this can be successfully & mutually negotiated by giving these resettlers title to their new properties, instead of the usurious “pagri” and rental system most of these katchi abadi dwellers have to content with currently;
Lastly, roads and current infrastructure will also have be replanned, replaced or even relocated to accommodate these new services.
So, what is the STARTING POINT of all these actions?
A long term City & infrastructure Plan has to be created, agreed by all political stakeholders and implemented & monitored professionally. This Plan will continuously need amendments and updating, which cannot be done without a non-partisan, political approach to addressing Karachi’s problems professionally by the Chief Minister, Government AND Opposition parties working together, instead of the politics of destruction – the destruction to the City of Karachi!
Weather patterns have changed for Pakistan, especially Karachi. We are seeing colder winters, hotter summers … and heavier rains! The last I remember of these types of rains were in the 1970s.
Karachi is facing severe monsoon rains for the first time in decades. It’s a good thing too – it cleans up the city; there is more greenery; the temperature drops; and life is so much more pleasant; and the three major reservoirs supplying water to our City get filled.
Yet, with the rains upon us there is no drinking water in sight! Like South Africa’s current problem, Pakistan is heading for a water crisis in the coming decade.
Rain is God’s gift to Earth and we are rebuffing this free resource!
The time to act is NOW … with no POLITICS or partisanship involved, through micro & macro means. The provincial & federal governments cannot do this on their own- we as citizens have to help out too.
Let’s go back to school – literally – and immediately start teaching water saving to all nursery, kindergarten and primary school children! (Long Term Goal)
Water faucets can and should be changed to modern fittings which save water. I saw a very interesting concept at https://www.alteredcompany.com/ . Their water aerators/nozzles give a mist giving the same cleaning effects but at a fraction of the water wastage. Why can’t our domestic companies follow suit and make it mandatory for all faucets to be of this type?
Implement recycling “domestic” water for kitchen & clothes washing and swimming pool top ups;
Implement “waste” water recycling (from WC’s and urinals) for gardens and exterior washings (can be used for washing cars, external patios, etc).
Implement drip irrigation for all gardens, plants & farms –Middle Eastern countries are proof that such systems work – and theoretically it should be even easier for us to do!
All watering for gardens & plants should be done at/after sunset;
Domestic staff HAVE to be taught to conserve water (for that matter all our utilities);
On the macro side, our federal & provincial governments –
Have to put aside “-1 sum” politics (in this case “-1” referring to provinces) in favour of the citizens of Pakistan.
Like Hawaii, we need to create water catchment areas for rainwater in each province – NO RAIN WATER SHOULD BE WASTED.
Mini DAMS is a must – starting from the north of Pakistan’s main rivers down south to the Arabian Sea – so that our fresh water does not drain into the sea and is instead used productively. Politicians (not us citizens!) have concerns that water from such dams would not be used equitably – but if Pakistan & India’s Indus Water Treaty of 1960 can withstand the “test of time”, I’m sure our own provinces can also reach comprehensive, equitable & binding agreements.
Not a drop of fresh water in Pakistan should be allowed to flow into the Arabian Sea and instead equitably diverted East & West to all provinces as it flows southwards!
Desalinization plants – this is a macro project and while some smaller units have been set up in Karachi, they are not being used. Besides rainwater, ocean water is an absolutely FREE resource- why are we not using it? We take loans to pay off other loans … and loans for building our arms … why can’t we take loans & grants for providing drinking water to our population?
There is a great need for our governments (plural!) collectively to lead the way in collecting & storing rainwater; promoting households & commercial buildings to create water catchments & reuse rainwater; and teach & implement water saving techniques to the population!
THE WATER IS FREE people … we just need to optimally capture this very very scarce resource and utilize it correctly in & for our Country.
Well, we are in a Pandemic and it’s not really about “flattery”- it’s more about …
COPY WHAT SEEMS TO WORK from past and current experiences, regardless of personal or political conflict, geographical boundaries or religion!
So, what seems to be working?
Scale up COVID tests & diagnosis- doing large number of lab diagnoses allow authorities to slow the spread of the infection by isolating known cases while they are infectious, enabling treatment to be administered at a far earlier stage
Increase easily available, random & free testing
“Test and trace for the high-at-risk groups”, which means increasing the manufacture of local test kits
Continue to maintain social distancing
Limit contact with older people, they being more susceptible to the Virus
Two types of testing is required-
Serology tests- which will identify infected patients with antibodies (this will help determine who is immune and help people get back to normal life)
Rapid-antigen test- to diagnose those who carry the virus (without or with minimal symptoms)
Open testing & drive-through centers in each of Karachi’s – as an example – 178 Union Councils to screen as many people, as quickly, as possible. All tests would be recorded through their CNICs, immediately tested with temperature scan and throat swab. People who may have interacted with an infected patient should report to testing centers for checking.
“R-0” (R-naught) is the number of new infections an infected person passes on. Only when R0 is less than 1 will the pandemic start reducing. So, all mitigation strategies should continue “one month after you drive down the R-naught to zero”.
Increase LOCAL supply chains so as to provide protective gear, supplies & equipment to front line health workers & hospitals; and going hand-in-hand, continuous monitoring and protection of all medical and other essential workers.
Contact Tracing- tracking travel history & all movements of every COVID patient so as to find & test every person in contact with the patient. This will identify transmission networks and preempt possible further carriers.
Use of Modern Technology & Communications-
*An accurate communication system that disseminates the movements of potentially infected people, in which geographical areas, etc. There should be ONE SOURCE of this information and all you need to do is push it out to each of the Telco carriers in the City for onwards distribution to the public. This will enable less contact between possible affected and those not.
My brother’s suggestion was to use “easy-paisa” & other such portals to disseminate the Federal & Provincial funds to the needy & poor instead of cash payouts. With almost 80% mobile subscribers in Pakistan, majority of the recipients will be documented, leading to less fraud.
I surprised my future wife with a romantic(?) Valentine’s dinner the year we were dating; and then for the next few years after our marriage.
…and just as suddenly those romantic dinners stopped J, not for want of trying … I just “forgot”!
There is no religious significance of Valentines Day to the general public in Pakistan. However, we all like to celebrate it as a means of entertainment.
Valentine’s occasion brings activity to Pakistan’s society in general. It’s a means of entertainment- besides eating and drinking, there’s not much more one can do in a large city like Karachi.
I’ve found that occasions like Valentine’s increases market activity; there’s a positive vibe in the City; employment and commerce is generated by eating places. Besides this, roadside sellers of flowers have a boon. Patisserie orders increase (…so does your waist line!).
Pakistanis are not celebrating any religious angle with Valentines. It’s purely an emotional outlet … a release for us.
Hotels go full; restaurants go full; the City buzzes; and people enjoy “just another evening” in the guise of “Valentine’s Day”.
So, get out, take your spouse out tonight … enjoy the lights of Karachi and whatever palate suits you’ll.
… I’m surprising my wife with a romantic dinner for two at a Bhatiar Khana (roadside diner) J … either I’ll see you’ll tomorrow or, like the title picture, I’ll be in the hospital.
Karachiites witnessed three great socials over the last few weekends-
The Royal Embassy of #Denmark in Islamabad brought in the “Rocqawali”
The Goethe Institute of Karachi brought in “Cyminology”.
The Italian Consul in Karachi brought in Chef Vittorio Castellani (aka Chef Kumalé)
Rocqawali blends “traditional
Sufi music in a 21st Century version of guitars & drums”.
2004, Jonas (Rocqawali’s guitarist) traveled to Pakistan to seek out his
roots. Here he met lead singer, Ejaz,
who hails from Mehr Ali & Sher Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Qawal family. Drummer Stephan joined the band in 2012,
followed with Tin (their guitarist), himself from a Persian-Sufi background. The best part- all are Danish citizens!
Cyminology, a “Berlin
based quartet, combines Persian poetry” with, essentially, Jazz.
subtle yet dynamic, softly-pulsating music takes its cue from the sound of the
Persian-language poets- Rumi, Hafiz & Khayyam”. As an extra, they performed a poem by Faiz
Ahmed Faiz, and that too in Urdu! Cymin
Samawatie is the lead vocalist, Benedikt Jahnel on the piano, Ralf Schwarz
played a beautiful Double Bass and Ketan Bhatti topped off the performance on the
drums. The best part- all are German
As an added extra to this music-cultural fusion, is Chef Kumalé, a “Gastro-Nomad”.
spanning over 27 years has differentiated Chef Kumalé from many other “chefs”
in the world- he’s a traveling-journalist-food blogger extraordinaire! His visit to Karachi was primarily to learn
Pakistani food – while he gave a few Italian training sessions, Chef Kumalé
immersed himself into Pakistani culture and food to add to his vast gastronomic
& traveling repertoire and blog.
The ICING –
All three events have fused MULTIPLE
cultures into a common platform people enjoy … MUSIC & FOOD,
regardless of language, race, ethnicity, religion or nationality; and they have
done it with respect and dignity to the original chefs/authors/performers/ music.
Our Country, along with India & Iran, has one of the oldest & richest cultures in the world – with poets, mysticism, love, myriad romantic languages & food havens – a cultural dream for any artist; and for that matter, for any nation. What better for peace & cohesion than a fusion of these CULTURES with each other and with contemporary western thinking – just what we, and the world, needs, eh!
One of the
best investments this Country ever made in the ‘90’s was development of the new
Motorways in the Punjab. Let’s analyze what
it has produced-
Poverty- Whether it’s the “CPEC” development of roads network, rail
links or other transport modes or it’s internally developed, tying city to city
and province to province will uplift rural areas and give them access to
commerce, trade, emergencies, etc.;
Commerce – you’ve shrunk the time, eased the availability and given
smooth access to farmers and trade from their villages to large towns and
Mobility- Punjab has become MOBILE.
With a maximum travel time of six hours, people can work in one city while
their home is in another- very much like cities in USA;
Transport- network and infrastructure has increased and become better;
Employment- you’ve created new means of income & employment- whether
new buses ply the motorways, staffing these buses or opportunities for shops,
outlets, offices, etc. (more on this below*)
Tourism- you give immediate access to develop internal tourism opportunities
(more on this below*). This summer, my
brother, sis-in-law and our families drove from Karachi to Nathiagali, in one
of the best overland adventures they have had!
& self-employment- Local towns, villages and populace on the road network
should be helped & encouraged to put up small, clean, 2-3 star lodgings
& cottages– the economy of that area is being developed indigenously. Pakistani hospitality is one of the best the
world has ever seen (but few can experience it in the face of negative
publicity ☹). You don’t need the “Avaris” and the “PCs”
& “Serenas” – let it be the “Khan Motel” instead. One, 10 room lodging will give DIRECT income
& employment to a family of 5-7 people minimum; they in turn will employ
others to help run the show; producers will sell food stuff, cleaning, linen
and other items to these lodgings; the benefits go on down-stream and are never
ending; and on & on. The ancillary
developments that take place are another story all together – shops , retails,
malls, organized tours, etc.
There may be no international empirical evidence suggesting an increase in road networks necessarily helps an economy but I see actual, on-the-ground benefits we have gained in Pakistan. If travel time between Karachi and Lahore can be reduced from almost 24 hours to 12 hours, what’s not to like? If a series of motorways links the length and breadth of Pakistan, what’s wrong with that?
(As I post this, the new M7 – Multan to Sukkar- just opened!)
“Mix Breed”, based on a Parsi family who have to face “intermarriage” issues, is a light portrayal of the real-world issues our Community is facing. With double meanings and inflections, the cast (90% of whom learnt Gujrati “on the job”!) entertained the Gujrati speaking communities of Karachi.
The Script was written by Mrs Huzan Wadia, who has successfully
acted & directed it in Mumbai; and selflessly extended the script on a
gratis basis to Natalia Karanjia in Karachi, this play being the latter’s directorial
debut. Yay to Natalia!
This is what Karachi, and Pakistan, lacks- ENTERTAINMENT. We have food & drink and …………
hmmmmm. Play and theatre is picking up
in Pakistan but to a very restricted market.
The mainstream citizens do not get to enjoy theatre on a regular basis-
whether drama, comedy, musical. Our cast
explained to me the ‘power’ of theatre – they get their rush when the crowd
reacts with them- it’s a powerful, intoxicating feeling; there are no second
chances for a mistake; and when you make a mistake, you have to think on your
feet and keep going.
In the 2000 decade our media was opened – creating a new source of
employment – for budding theatre artists, actors, directors, writers, film
makers, etc. It’s a growth market but we
have to create more facilities for this talent to be nurtured, taught, portrayed
– AND WITH IT allowing us citizens to enjoy these productions and enriching our
lives. Kudos to the NAPAs, Arts Councils
and other such facilities – but we need more!
(The naatak was sponsored by the 109 year-old Young Mazdyasnian Zoroastrian Association (YMZA) and the Karachi Parsi Anjuman- however it is not meant to be any endorsement or official or unofficial stance of the Anjuman, the YMZA or any individual thereof)
We are an inquisitive nation and by extension an inquisitive people 😊!
Politically, we just cannot stop poking our [long] noses into others’ affairs … and more than that, commenting on the same. We are ‘holier than thou’!
Locally, we must be part of the crowd – we just cannot mind our own business.
Socially, not only must we ‘keep up with the Joneses’ but we must comment on “them”, their life, clothes, dogs, cats and anything else we are inquisitive enough to bitch about.
We’ll stop to see an accident; we’ll mill around the affected; we’ll give our comments on who was right or wrong without even knowing anything about the incident; we’ll even pronounce judgement – all along with no relationship to affected parties concerned. All because our voice must be heard above the din of another 50 onlookers with exactly the same purpose in mind 😊!
Oi people!!! … Get a life! There’s more to life than inquiring into our neighbors’ comings and goings; the food they eat; their lifestyle; or who they meet.
We should get our own house in order … after all, there’s another countless tongues wagging at [against] us!
I, alongwith 6 billion others, will have 6 billion & 1 reasons on what a government’s role is in society.
… But, why do we exist? Why are we living? Why did “societies” and “cultures” crop up?
It is for the promotion of general welfareof those societies & cultures. That’s what should be the purpose of any government and NOT a 20, 30, 40-page manifesto of the “ideal” society!!! How much of these manifestos actually materialize in your country?
There is NO perfect society or government by a long shot. However, I feel the county which comes closest to this 1-point “ideal” is Singapore! The country has remained neutral; it looks after it’s citizens and residents; and their education & health policies are almost second to none!
If all governments, including here in Pakistan, were to use this one-point agenda (general welfare of its citizens) as it’s rallying call, I think all policies – domestic or international – would correctly flow from this.
Like Star Trek, eventually, the quest for the human race should be furthering “knowledge” and what humanity can eventually develop into!