Day 11 – Due Date
It’s is Sofia’s due date today so the day called for keeping busy with a fun activity.
After our impromptu visit yesterday to the pretty grotty local beach, the plan was a trip to a “lovely beach” far different apparently from what I had already seen, and about an hour’s drive away.
The journey to this much further afield beach was worth the trip alone for the sights on the way, for if I thought I had seen Karachi at its worst in regards to dirt, pollution, rubbish poverty and grey, grey, grey, then I had a rude awakening. It truly was unexplainable but I will try. First a stop at the baker shop with sausage and chicken pastries – to supplement the picnic Muna had already prepared. Knowing Muna the picnic would consist of a tasty variety of foods fit for a king that she had “just thrown together”, so any purchased supplements, however delicious, I am sure would not be a patch on what we already have. While Muna shopped and the rest of us waited outside, we discussed the armed guard outside the fruit shop opposite, and I had them all in stitches with laughter as I did a John Wayne impression of ” your money or your apples”.
As we left the criss-cross, busy streets and huge billboards of Karachi behind we started to drive along a straight, quieter road with low concrete buildings either side. With no greenery or other scenic colours, it reminded me of driving through a cement works. Further driving and we were going through shanty towns of indescribable filth and decay. I took so many pictures from the windows of the car because the written description could never suffice.
Soon the grey gave way to vibrant colours as the roads began to be filled once more with huge colourful trucks. Muna explained that there is big business in customising the trucks, and we did see some pretty impressive decorations to the huge vehicles all around us. The vast, busy road we were on was a dual carriageway, and on the central reservation I noticed that someone had attempted to bring colour the landscape by planting palm trees in the middle, although sadly they had all died through, I am pretty sure, the dust and pollution. Most were now fallen black stumps of rotten vegetation. The few that were still standing had no trace of green left on the branches. They, like everything else, were a grey dust covered mess on the landscape.
All along the sides of the road the piles of garbage were smoking as if fires had been lit, but I am pretty sure it was the mixtures of gases produced by the waste and the heat of the sun that caused the ignition. I was dismayed to see the ever present scooters with families riding on them in amongst the trucks. One had a baby of around a year sitting ahead of daddy, and although a helmet would have been good, a face mask against the dust I sure would have been a better health protection.
"There are huts on the beach that are owned by the upper classes so that they had sun protection and somewhere to change.”
Eventually the roads started to clear and get wider, although by now this picture of a beautiful beach with palms trees had become a myth in my mind. After travelling through such awfulness how could a beautiful beach just appear? Sofia had told me that there are huts on the beach that are owned by the upper classes so that they had sun protection and somewhere to change, cook etc. and that we had managed to borrow one such hut from a friend. By now having seen the views from the car and knowing we were close to our destination I didn’t expect much. However, I was not disappointed when we finally arrived. About ten minutes away from our destination and the air suddenly began to get fresher and the landscape cleaner.
When we finally arrived I felt excited that this indeed would be a lovely day at the beach. The huts turned out to be concrete bungalows, although the owners had tried to individualise then with colourful doors, wooden window shutters and fenced off garden areas. The one we had use of had lovely Mediterranean blue shutters and doors, and although it was basic with concrete floors, it did have a terrace directly on the sandy beach and clean modern garden furniture.
The inside was as basic but again clean. It had 2 bathrooms and a kitchen, so all in all it was a nice place to spend the day. The surrounding areas was probably the nicest, cleanest place I had seen so far but still would make Leysdown on Sea look like paradise in relation to luxury, or even any amenities because there weren’t any! Sofia explained that very few Pakistani people would go to a beach for recreation.
The small cove had clean, soft sand and a warm blue green sea. Not in any way like the crystal depths of the clean Mediterranean Sea, but certainly on par with the cleanest of beaches in the UK. Muna, as I suspected, had packed delicious foods including a chicken drumstick casserole in a barbeque sauce, homemade couscous with mushrooms and all the pastries and fruits to supplement. By the time we arrived we were all ravenous and dug in deep. Sofia had been eating loads in the last day or so and saying she could not believe how hungry she was. Now I noticed she was walking around with a chicken drumstick stuck in her mouth even before she got Ebo settled on the terrace with a plate of food, such was her hunger. Hmmm… due date and suddenly starving hungry? Was this a sign? By now I was looking for signs in every action and word she said!
After we had eaten I sat in the sun (the first time since I had arrived) in shorts and a vest and gazed out at the wondrous view of the Arabian Sea. The place was deserted so getting our arms and legs out was of no concern and it was bliss. The sea just a few feet in front of us and the sky a beautiful deep blue. Finally, something pretty to look at! Of course Ebo, Sofia’s little boy, was mega excited and wanted to walk along the beach, so as soon as we were stuffed to the brim we all went paddling in the sea. The lack of beach culture means that, not only do Pakistani people pretty much avoid the beach, neither do they swim for fear of the sea. So it was with great hilarity that Sharif waded in up to his knees shrieking with exaggerated trepidation.
I left this lovely family to their hilarity and fun and wondered further round the picturesque little cove. I always have a deep sense of aloneness and loneliness when I am on a beach. The gentle sounds of the waves masking other sounds allowed me to go deep into my thoughts about my family and friends so far away right now. With the faces in mind of my darling Sean, the children I am so proud of, and the grandchildren I love so as my heart could break, I wrote a message in the hard packed wet sand to home. I took a picture of “I miss you” so I could send it to them and wondered what they were all doing at that exact moment.
As I tell women in labour, everything ends eventually, so as the lovely day drew to a close we fed the local dogs our leftovers and packed up our belongings. As the sun was getting cooler in the sky we all bundled back in to car and headed back home.
“On this same journey a friend of hers had been held up in her car at gunpoint and robbed.”
Sofia’s due date was drawing to a close and it didn’t look like baby was going to be born today. A little way down the road Sofia spotted an ice cream seller and we stopped for ice cream. I asked if was safe to get out of the car, Sofia said “no” but Muna said “yes” so being the person I am, I jumped out and did a little bit of videoing of the surroundings and the very funny little ice cream sellers bike. After Sharif had purchased the ice creams he called me back to get into the car. “Yes” said Muna “we don’t want you kidnapped do we”? Apparently on this same journey a friend of hers had been held up in her car at gunpoint and robbed and that is why they never drive themselves.
By the time we got back to Karachi rush-hour was underway and it was like a mixture of banger racing, donkey derby and whacky races with every man for himself. After going the wrong way round a roundabout (us and several other vehicles) and being waved on as if it was fine and dandy by the traffic police, I commented that there was no notion of lane observation. I burst into laughter when Muna, in her ever positive way replied “Oh no, the traffic here is very fluid.” I think if Muna was inspecting s**t she would only see the sweet corn…
So still no baby, but hey, I am a midwife… I have patience!