05 Nov, 2016

familiar sights in new surroundings…

Sehba Sarwar
05 Nov, 2016

Sehba SarwarToday, on my hike to Eaton Waterfall, right as I duck into the shaded trail, I notice a silver-haired man ahead of me, who keeps turning around to look at me. Because we are the only ones on the trail, I feel nervous. But after I take a turn, I don’t see the man any more, so I continue to the end of trail. On my hike back to the parking lot, I pass two park guards on the main trail. I mention the man to them.

“He has long hair, right?” they ask.

I nod.

“He’s harmless,” one of the guard responds. “He lives in the cement hut that was part of a bridge leading to the waterfall. He’s never hurt anyone. …”

They continue rambling upward as I descend. Even though park hours are from sunrise to sunset, they seem unconcerned that someone is residing at the park. Houston security guards were never so relaxed when learning about people using public space for their housing.

Currently, according to the LA Times, Los Angeles has the largest number of people living on streets. Many live in Skid Row, others place tents below freeway bridges, while still more camp out in parks. In another LA Times article, the reporter points out that women comprise one third of the city’s homeless community.

As I read the story, I think about the shopping cart laden with blankets and plastic bags that I pass whenever I walk around Victory Park. The cart rests behind the baseball field net, just a few yards from where the weekly Farmer’s Market is held. On a Saturday morning just a few weeks ago, I notice a woman reposing on a chair beside the cart, her body wrapped in green blankets. We exchange glances, and then, she looks away, her blank gaze resting on the US Marine headquarters behind me.

As I get familiar with the landscape around me, I begin to notice that beside the double-storied houses and tree-lined streets, beneath the mountain ranges, and in the canyons reside men and women who sleep on pavements and in crevices. Once, at the entrance of a grocery store parking lot, a man greets me. He stands against the wall with his wife and two children, holding a sign: hungry – please help. Another time, a woman walks up to me with her six-year old daughter by her side, and asks for money—an encounter that reminds me of women and children thronging Karachi streets.


04 Nov 2016 · 04:32:20 PM