KARACHI: Firm in the belief that an early morning walk is a blessing for the rest of the day, retired government officer Gulzar Shah formed a walkers club 15 years ago.
Safari Walkers Club traverses the tracks of Safari Park on University Road as Shah, who is patron-in-chief of the club, has been doing for the last 30 years. When Shah decided to form a club for early rising walking enthusiasts, he gathered a group of likeminded men with the consent of the Safari Park administration.
The club currently has 35 members, ranging from the young to the elderly and also has its own constitution, according to which every year an election is held to elect the club president. This constitution also contains the club's bylaws. Seven days a week, the club members are required to join in on the early morning walk and every Saturday morning one member has to arrange breakfast for the group, preferably homemade items, according to Shah.
According to club president Akhtar Ayub Bukhari, if any member misses the morning walk. the other members 'punish' him. "Mostly we ask the member to treat us with breakfast or a lunch at some restaurant," he said, laughing. The club's finance secretary, Amir Hussain, said they meet at the park right after Fajr prayers. On Saturdays, he said that they gather at around 6am and walk till 8am. "At 8am, we all enjoy a heavy breakfast," he said.
No women allowed!
The group is exclusively for men. According to Bukhari, there are barely any female walkers who come to Safari Park, so it would be useless to include female members. Shah expressed his belief that running a club catering to males only was perfectly fine.
However, he said that the club frequently arranges picnics and feasts, to which the families of the members are also invited.
A gift to the park
On a cloudy Saturday morning, when The Express Tribune joined the club for breakfast beneath a beautiful canopy by the lake at Safari Park, surrounded by huge trees and lush greenery, Shah explained that the canopy was built by a club member.
He said that the club members collected Rs0.5 million for the construction of the canopy and one of the members of the club, Shahzad Rafat, who is a civil contractor, designed it for them. The canopy, according to him, is a gift for anyone who visits Safari Park.
Karachi Metropolitan Corporation's (KMC) Safari Park additional director Kazim Hussain said that they had provided them the space for the canopy but the club members constructed it themselves. He said that they have made membership cards for the club members and have waived the entrance fee for them.
Though women cannot become members of the club, the heavy breakfast that the club members devour is prepared by female members of their families. This time it was Muhammad Malook's turn to arrange breakfast for the club members. Malook had brought muttan kunna, qeema, omelettes, murhg cholay, paratha, chawal ki roti, baked colostrums, custard, honey and tea. "My wife cooked all this," he said, smiling.
How to become a member?
According Hussain, the membership used to be Rs5,000 but this has now been raised to Rs25,000. After every six months, members have to pay Rs1,000, he said. He explained that part of the money goes towards the donations the club gives to the low-grade staffers at Safari Park as well as their yearly donations to the staffers on Eid.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2016.