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26 Jan

Eat, Karachi, Eat. But first, calm down!

 

Nowadays, every Karachiite poses to be a food critic/connoisseur- Facebook ‘activists’ are ready to attack, disarm and destroy any restaurant that may not be able to meet the standards that Karachiites have now come to enjoy, thanks to the influx in high quality dining and food that is now so easily available at many leading restaurants.

 

Therefore we have come to learn a thing or two about food. So when you hear that in this city of foodies, an entire festival dedicated to food is entering its third year, you have some expectations. Don’t get me wrong- Karachi Eat Festival 2016 boasted some innovative food items -such as the nutella gol gappas and grilled Mac and Cheese sandwiches- but there were some glaring mistakes that I just cannot ignore.

 

Spotted: Nomi Ansari and Nabila's talented kids, Sara (N Pro) and Zair (N Gents).

Spotted: Nomi Ansari and Nabila’s talented kids, Sara (N Pro) and Zair (N Gents).

 

Senseless Stalls

 

Based on the stalls that I saw, it seems clear that the festival is now focusing on making money, even if it means to compromise on the quality of the festival. For instance, brands such as Sensodyne, boasted massive stalls, and unsurprisingly not many people cared much for such stalls. The same space could have been allotted for more seating, as seating was also an issue as there were too many people and not enough tables.

 

RadioFm91 was given a stall there as well while a concert was already taking place not too far away. So there were two different sounds overlapping each other. I don’t know who had it worse- the people who had paid to the festival organizers to play their music there, or the band that had been paid to come perform for the audience, where there was another stall loudly belting out their own tunes.

 

On the other hand: it was exciting to see the diversity in food stalls. You had small scale eateries and big restaurants all in the same place. And the serving sizes were nice and small so you could try a little bit of everything from everywhere. The food was priced decently as well so it wasn’t that heavy on the pockets.

 

Salim and Shehla Chatoor with their lovely daughters.

Salim and Shehla Chatoor with their lovely daughters.

 

Safety Hazards

 

In a place that was hosting thousands of people at one given time, there weren’t enough exits, or fire extinguishers, or medical help. A terribly unfortunate incident took place where a woman caught fire, in which she got severely burned as well, and there was no one around to attend to this. Only one man from a nearby stall came running with a fire extinguisher, and saved the poor woman’s life.

 

How did she catch fire in the first place? Her dupatta came into contact with a light that was placed on a tree, and the hood of the light was so hot that her dupatta blazed right up, with her clothes also catching fire.

 

On the other hand: an ambulance was able to reach the venue almost immediately, despite the traffic and commotion.

 

Fia Khan with her adorable daughter, who only speaks and understands German.

Fia Khan with her adorable daughter, who only speaks and understands German.

 

Traffic, Parking and Congestion

 

We love the idea that a public space like Frere Hall is being utilized so beautifully, but the festival is growing each year and attracting way more people than it did the year before. The Frere Hall is no longer a viable location as it just cannot hold so many people at a time. It was quite claustrophobic when you literally had to squeeze your way through people and its not fun eating and hanging out with your friends when you’re getting pushed and shoved around.

 

Obviously, there isn’t enough parking around. And the traffic could have been better managed. No special arrangements were made to facilitate the hundreds of cars that completely blocked traffic for people other than the festival go-ers. There were major traffic jams all around Metropole, extending to Sharah-e-Faisal, owing to the fact that Frere Hall is situated in a very central location of the city.

 

On the other hand: I love the fact that Karachi Eat is getting bigger and better with each year!

 

Violence between stall owners and festival organizers

 

A fight broke out between a certain stall owner and the organizers, and by fight I mean a phadda. People were hitting and punching and trying to kill each other amid all the families and young children who were trying to enjoy a peaceful Sunday. From what I’ve heard, the festival organizers provoked the stall owner with their rudeness but the stall owner was the first to deliver a punch. And of course, the organizer decided to punch back in retaliation. Such aggression needs to be better handled as such incidents have the potential to blow out into full riots and stampedes, specially in a place that has thousands of people already cramped into a tiny space.

 

On the other hand: the Rangers quickly stepped in and were able to prevent the fight from getting any bigger.

 

Conclusion: The event was largely a success- it attracted a lot of people and made a lot of money. It gave exposure to lots of small businesses and a fun activity for Karachiites to engage in. However, when an event becomes this big, the organizers should make a few changes so that next year’s event runs even more smoothly.

 

Manal Faheem Khan

The author is Contributing Editor at Something Haute who has studied film and journalism from SZABIST. Will be found at the gym if not in the office.