The Mad House at the daak-khaana chowk Liaquatabad

Owais Mughal

Karachi is going through a big infrastructure overhaul these days. Many roads are dug up for building signal-free corridors. This has shifted traffic load to lesser known roads. One such route, which is taking the burnt of traffic load is the University Road to daak-khana chowk (post office intersection) Liaquatabad route via Sindhi Hotel.

I passed through Liaquatabad daak-khana chowk many times during my 2 week stay in Karachi in January of 2007.

During these travels through daak-khana chowk I noticed a traffic policeman trying to manage the traffic and failing miserably. Many people obeyed him while others just passed by as if he was not present there. I saw him in the mornings with a smile on the face, in the afternoons with a frown and in the evening he seemed to transform into a totally berserk monster. One evening I saw him lunging towards a motorcycle, which was going the wrong way, with both arms waving, as if to hit the rider. While motorcycle guy should,ve been cited, I couldn’t believe the actions of this policeman. He had appeared to have gone totally mad. He was waving both hands to traffic, stomping feet and cursing aloud at bus drivers.

Photo to the right shows traffic jam at Liaquatabad Daak-khana intersection.

While most of the people stuck in this traffic were part of a motion and following the instincts of survival of the fittest, I was sitting in the car watching it as a neutral observer. Nothing of what I saw appeared normal to me. It looked like a big mad house of chaotic traffic where everyone wanted to move ahead of others. I was thinking about what lack of discipline has brought us to this sorry state as a nation.

Controlling chaotic traffic on Karachi roads is a thankless job. I felt bad for the traffic policeman. For whole day he had to inhale diesel, petrol and carbon monoxide which I believe also add to one’s mental lack of attentiveness (due to presence of lead particles). If traffic police wants to keep these guys healthy, they should be provided at the very least with smoke masks.

Photo to the left shows a portion of the Daak-khana chowk. The road under the traffic lights goes to Sindhi Hotel. Click on the image to get a larger view.

After few days of passing through daak-khana chowk, I saw another interesting phenomenon. The traffic control at daak-khana chowk was so out of control that a seemingly mentally challenged person jumped in the middle of the intersection and started mimicking the actions of a traffic policeman.

The photo to the right shows this mentally challenged person trying to mimick actions of a traffic policeman. The traffic policeman also appears to be looking on in the background.

Many people started obeying this man’s orders while the real traffic police constable looked on in amusement. One afternoon, I was once again sitting in the traffic thinking about who was actually mentally challenged here. The people with unannounced fine mental health and who were openly ignoring traffic signals OR this person with a certified mental problem who had volunteered to make some sense out of the chaos at daak-khana chowk and trying to make people obey traffic rules.

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