When Disney decided to take over Lucasfilm, I wasn’t surprised. When Snape turned out to be the good guy at the end of the Harry Potter books, it didn’t surprise me. But when I walked to Botal Gali and actually found bottles, my mouth dropped to the floor.
What? Real Bottles? At Botal Gali? I mean, to be fair I had never seen Rashid Minhas standing on the middle of the Rashid Minhas Road, or found a single boat floating about Boat Basin or heard of anyone finding God in the Allah Waala Chowrangi.
Then, how was it that there were actual bottles in Botal Gali? I guess the thing about the place is that you get what you’re promised.
By the looks of it, the place isn’t exactly dapper. It’s a narrow street located in the heart of Karachi, otherwise called Saddar, off the Frere Hall road. Foreboding at first, the place grows on your gradually once you learn to look past its deteroriating exterior.
The buildings! It’s a wonder they are still standing like they are. Colonial in its construction, the buildings surround the street like a protective wall on its either side and clearly date back to pre-independence times.
Right when Pakistan was being wrangled out of the subcontinent to appear as its own country, this area was busy being called Parsi Gali. No surprises there actually, for then the area was thriving with Parsi residents, most of whom had also migrated from India. There were barely any shops, recalls one shopkeeper.
It is the people that make up a public space. If we are to believe that statement, Botal Gali is a street of unimaginable variety. What appears to be shady street straight out of a scary film on a Sunday night takes on an indifferent air on a Monday evening.
On Eids and public holidays, a boy is seen hitting a swirling ball with a bat.
The emotional attachment that the people of the street feel for it is evident in their determination to stick by it, no matter what. It’s almost like they are living in the past as if today doesn’t matter.
The thing about Botal Gali is that you get what you’re promised, but sometimes, it’s worth giving back.