Has the lock-down made the streets of Karachi safer and changed our lifestyle as we see more cycling, jogging and simple walks on the road.
When the nationwide lock-down began the country was thrown into a state of disarray and alarm. Businesses temporarily shut down, the world went indoors in their homes, not leaving under any circumstance during the month of March.
As matter progressed, the dynamics of our lifestyle began to shift, prioritizing nature, family and saying healthy when there is no option. Perhaps due to being comfortable with ourselves for a significant amount of time and needing space to breathe, the trend of cycling became appealing, with the streets more or less emptier.
If one were to glance out their doorstep in the months of April and May, they might have glimpsed families going on a stroll, cyclists at the empty Sea-View beach, or around the block. The emptiness caused by the pandemic sanctioned a safer chance to get not only some fresh air, but time outside, without worrying about being out in public, or imminent danger. This consequently affected women more, who were finally able to be out, cycle, walk, jog outdoors, as the environment was temporarily safer.
The quarantine hit was sometime toward end of February, with matters intensifying in March; everything shut down, forcing us to stay indoors, our world needed a break, a change. We may not think about it from this different perspective but it forced the people of Karachi to change with the times, it changed the world and still is in the process of change. The first few weeks went by and people were restless, eager to go out and socialize, being the sociable creatures that are, we decided we couldn't stay "suffocated" indoors like this much longer. Without breaking the laws set in place people decided to find a loophole to tackle the situation. In many other countries this is very normal, as it should be everywhere but in Karachi, and Pakistan, this was a whole new normal.
Gradually, smaller numbers of people began occupying the streets as they should, going on walks, runs cycling, rollerblading and skateboarding. In our society, this is labelled as "unconventional", with people using the lack of crowded streets to enjoy a bout of fresh air. As women living in Pakistan we didn't realize that it had to take something as big and horrible as a pandemic in order for us to feel safe in our own rightful spaces. It is quite unfortunate that this pandemic took place but that doesn't mean we shouldn't celebrate our choti choti khushiyan (in our case pretty big), looking for light in the darkness is hardly a crime.
Social media was another platform which saw people using the quarantine period to do more recreational activities, with cycling becoming a group activity for family and friends to enjoy in, till today. On journeys outside the home, we can see glimpses of women enjoying their evening walks, or early morning; couples bonding outdoors and walking around near their homes, as well as other forms of exercise. The nation on a break gave the people a breather of sorts, where they were able to take time for the little things, which are, in fact, the big things.
Multiple situations have played themselves out which see the people of the city focusing their time, efforts and energy into more productive activities, promoting a healthier lifestyle and allowing men and women of all ages to use their public spaces at will. Not entirely aware of the fact that their very presence is changing and creating a totally different atmosphere. Just by being present they are making a difference, hoping that this brings some positivity to our strange predicament. Change can only occur when we acquire it, this break or "hiatus" has garnered time to think and respond without intentionally bringing these peaceful ways of co-existing amongst ourselves, it's simply how we have adapted.
With exercise, freedom from fear and a cleaner way of living, we cannot help but commend how the empty streets and higher safety measures have had a healthy effect on our mental health. An afterthought, as the question remains, will the situation change going back toward the new normal, post-pandemic life? Or will we adapt to these new and profound dynamics that have integrated themselves into our lifestyle.