It is often said, and not without reason, that the only pastime Karachiites have is eating out. And when it comes to healthy activities for children, one can say that the options are even more limited. There are numerous reasons for this — the law and order situation, massive encroachments, not enough facilities etc, etc.
However, every once in a while something comes along and shakes up the status quo, proving that if we put our minds to it, many healthy activities can be organised to entertain youngsters, and give them other alternatives, aside from visiting the mall or staying home and playing video games.
A puppetry festival held last week, organised by the Lahore-based Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, was a riot of colours. Held on the expansive grounds of Bagh Ibne Qasim, it featured puppets of all kinds. There were tall men on stilts, puppets with strange, otherworldly faces, more traditional puppet shows featuring characters seemingly out of Sesame Street, as well as dancing puppets in the shape of camels. The kids, it was quite evident, were having a ball of a time.
This made one think: if the authorities — the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation was involved in helping organise the event — decide to put their resources behind healthy activities for both kids and adults, the cultural scene in Karachi can definitely change for the better.
Reading events, arts and crafts programmes and other such activities for kids can easily be organised at public venues. And such programmes should be held across the city, from Surjani to Defence, and from Gadap to Clifton, to that kids from every stratum of society have healthy outlets for fun, and can learn at the same time.
As a society we have not done much for our kids; in fact it would not be wrong to say that Karachi is not a child-friendly city at all. But perhaps both the state and civil society can put their heads together and help change this, by chalking out a plan for healthy activities in the metropolis that support children’s mental and emotional growth, and let them enjoy their childhood at the same time.
Originally published in Dawn, February 16th, 2020