Sidra Altaf is an independent photographer and documentary filmmaker. Having done her BA (Honors) in Business Administration from University of Greenwich, Malaysia, Sidra came back to her hometown Karachi aspiring to show the world through her...
With limited belongings, one of the most treasured one is that small silver trunk, stacked above a table, neatly covered with a cloth. That trunk holds a special value in their life. As it holds memories from some of the important days of their lives.
Even in their given situations or tough social circumstances, their memories are like photo book tucked in their brain, every time they open it and share a memory from it, it is just like that scene from the past come alive. Hassena opened her trunk of memories. Every item in that trunk was placed with such care. From there she picked a beautiful red frock, “This belongs to Amna, my youngest one. She wore it on her 1st birthday. We bought cake and invited neighbors and Amna wore this red color frock.” They don’t celebrate birthdays usually but Amna holds a special place in every one’s heart due to her difficult birth. When she was born both Hassena and the baby were in critical state and doctor had to operate. It was very worrying situation for the family as the chances of survival were low. But with prayers and support, Amna became a miracle baby among family and their support system.
When Haseena picked an old alphabet book from the trunk, Erum’s face lit up and she told us when she used to study. Hassena Showed us Erum’s school book and appraised her daughter on how good she is in studies.
And then there was a bunch of old photos packed together in an envelope. With every photograph, a memory came to life.
Erum told us about the day when they visited the beach for the first time. They came all the way from Nawabshah. It was a cloudy day and idyllic for a picnic by the sea. They packed some stuff, and took some snacks. And had street food near sea view.
The small envelope of memories was like a lifeline, a window to past where all they remember are the happy days. These memories give them strength for the difficult days that they face today, and wraps a tomorrow in a hopeful embrace for more better and happy days to come.
Hassena speaks about these beautiful pictures, which are memories now. When we came back from Nawabshah for the second time, we were staying at our relative’s house. They made a plan to go to Seaview in the afternoon. We also loved to go to the sea. The children had never visited Karachi. So, we got on the bus in late afternoon. We had to change 2 buses because there was no direct bus to Sea view from Korangi. Hassena shared her experience joyfully. “A day before the trip we came to Karachi, we only had chips and biscuits, we didn't even have food, and we were all living in one-room”.
We woke up on the bright Sunday morning and had breakfast and morning tea. I prepared children to leave for the day trip. My husband bought some snacks and refreshments to have on the way to Clifton. Then we packed everything for the trip. Soon after we left the house and took the bus. We reached Seaview after 1.5 hours, as we had to change 2 buses.
During the conversation with Haseena, Erum came and sat next to me. Since she is the eldest of all the children, she still remembers the trip.
“Seaview is my favorite place but we rarely visit it now”. – Erum
The sea was beautiful as it sparkled in the warm sun. There were so many people there. Some were busy playing cricket, while others were riding horses and camels. While kids were playing with mud. There were so many people bathing in the water. By the time we had gotten out of the bus, I was already excited to go into the water and enjoy the sea. Ammi (mother) has already read our minds so she told us to eat something first then we all can go into the water. We had snacks first which were incredibly delicious then we drank cold drinks as well. We relaxed for a bit and then we all ran into the seawater. We were dancing with the waves and moving with the sea. It was a day we will always cherish.
After a while, Hassena bought lunch for me. She had cooked chicken Karhayei (Chicken Curry) and Paratha for me. She continued the conversation.
Erum’s dad doesn’t like the sea as the water is not clean so he refused to go with us. He was just watching us from afar. In no time it was 6 pm; we packed our belongings and decided to have dinner. There was a local hotel near the sea, from where we had delicious food. After an hour we caught the bus back home. I still remember seeing the sun setting on the horizon by the sea.
“I know someday we will return to enjoy again a day at Seaview with our children” – Hassena
After finishing this beautiful conversation with Hassena, Emaan, Hassena’s second daughter, served me warm Suji ka Halwa and Chai. When I was leaving her house, her children invited me again to spend time with them.