Baba and Bhit islands: Where the streets have no wheels

Life on the islands goes on with much of the trappings of modernity


Shakir Sultan August 24, 2019
Residents of the twin islands of Baba and Bhit live a life free of the trappings of modernity. They don’t need cars, they say, because they don’t have roads. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

KARACHI: When you think of Karachi, the first image that comes to your mind is of a bustling metropolis with all the necessities of urban life, readily available for its residents.

But not too far away - off the coast of the Keamari Harbour, are the twin islands of Baba and Bhit, where residents live a life free of the trappings of modernity.

Residents of these islands claim to have no temptations for the quintessential urban lifestyle, which is considered as a requirement just a boat ride away, in Karachi.

A Hindu devotee of Shah Latif runs a sabeel and stocks shoes at his shrine

Home to a small community of fishermen, the constricted streets on the islands remain free of wheels and traffic congestion that so commonly haunt the residents of urban settlements.

“No, we don’t blame the government for not providing us with buses and cars here,” said Haji Qasim, a resident of the Bhit Island.

“There is no space for cars on these narrow roads,” he explained.

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For many, who dwell on these islands, separated by 800 meters of deep seawater, the only source of income is fishing. Without fear, armed with fishing nets and other gear, these locals venture into deep waters, hoping to bring home enough to make ends meet for the day.

“All we need is our boats and the basic infrastructure. That is all we need to earn a living,” said one fisherman, who resides on the island.

Cosily ensconced 20 minutes away from Karachi, residents of the two islands have no desire for cars, trains, rickshaws the indispensable ingredients of modern transportation. For them, the winding, narrow streets closely weaved houses and pedestrian-only lifestyle means the world. And the only vehicles for transport are the makeshift boats docked all around the islands.

“This is our island. We are happy with the small streets and no traffic,” said one resident.

With a total population ranging between 30,000 and 40,000, of these localities, Baba Island, is also said to be the oldest inhabited place.

Urs celebrations of Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai commence

Offering no-frills to its residents, the twin islands, are a melting pot of many ethnic groups including Muhajirs, Sindhis, Punjabis, Pakhtuns and Balochis.  Many inhabitants, who have lived long enough to witness the islands change, said the perils of mainland industrialization was taking a toll on the environment.

“The once pristine waters that surround the islands are now polluted,” said one islander.

Despite the limited resources and way of life, residents of Baba and Bhit Islands are living life one day at a time. “Who needs cars and wheels when you can walk to most places,” said one resident.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2019.

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