City Landmarks – Kakri Ground

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Some people might have this misconception that Defence and Clifton are the most happening parts of the town. Lyari trumps them both any given day. It is as if we are comparing Morata with Salah on current form for their respective clubs. A lot of people that I have acquainted with recently in Lyari have a passion, a dream. They are singers, footballers, boxers, musicians, filmmakers and activists in addition to their regular mundane jobs which runs their kitchen. One of the oldest neighborhoods in town, Lyari has grown into a dense and a complex locality to govern. It has seen much bloodshed in recent past that you wonder at the resilience that the kids and others must have shown. Kakri ground is a testament to Lyari’s resilience. In the news for all the wrong reasons, it has turned into the most ideal place to witness talent of Lyari.

I am with a sculptor and a photographer. Both women and their hairstyle warrant so much attention in general. One has short curly hair and the other has long silver hair. Despite Karachi’s appreciation of diversity people in different parts do identify outsiders (not necessarily an unwelcome gesture) and sometimes it makes me uncomfortable. But not in Lyari! There’s more probability of finding women in any street compared to rest of Karachi. Where do you find women fighting men in a boxing ring in Karachi. They make movies about such women in other parts of the world.

Kakri ground is a busy space. It always have been. Someone tells me that it was a popular place to dump dead bodies in gunny bags during gang wars. It has been a favorite of political parties to hold rallies and public gatherings. Things have changed for better. We find a dozen or some teams sharing main football field. We see kids cycle around the circumference. There are separate spaces for Judo, Boxing and Weightlifting. We find few people warming up around boxing ring and we strike a conversation. There is space for at least a thousand people around the boxing ring. People tell us that the boxing club has regular members which practice everyday during the evening. Almost everyone has a day job since no one can afford to be a full time sportsman these days. The boxing club which is named after Ali Qambrani for his services to the community has produced boxers which have represented Pakistan internationally. Someone points to a gentleman, rather reserved and tells me that he’s Muhammad Ali’s partner. I pause for a moment and reconfirm if he means Muhammad Ali the legendary boxer. He reaffirms. They take me inside a dark room. It takes a bit for my eyes to adjust. The rooms is full of photos and trophies. They point to a photo in which I can see Muhammad Ali posing for a punch with the younger version of reserved gentleman. Turns out that the gentleman, Ghulam Nabi, in heydays was a well known boxer and when Muhammad Ali visited Karachi, He had a chance to meet the great man in person and the photo was highlight of that meeting.

Ghulam Nabi is a man of few words. I see spark in his eyes when we talk about Muhammad Ali. The room is full of cheap plastic trophies earned with blood and sweat. For people like Ghulam Nabi, the greatest asset is perhaps the appreciation of what they have achieved with their passion.

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Categories: City Landmarks

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