The much hyped Coke Food and Music Festival was all anyone would talk about last weekend. The annoying ubiquity of its campaign on social media and real-time chatter of friends and colleagues convinced me to give the festival a shot. Being the devout Karachi Eat fan who religiously attends the annual 3-day event whenever it’s erected in K-town, I was very sceptic about Coke Fest. But owing to the grand music line-up of some of my favourite singers – namely Natasha Baig and Farhan Saeed – and an overtly excited colleague, was why I found myself in the Beach Park, Clifton last Saturday.


The long lane winding down to the entrance was crammed with traffic, moving at agonisingly slow pace, so we decided to make it to the entrance on foot. How my colleague and I made it to the entrance, without getting our ankles hurt, is another story. Every 20 steps a pupil or two from the jacket-clad crowd which was marching ahead with us, took to the footpath and caught their breath. I felt a pang of sympathy for the elderly who were clearly flabbergasted with the walk. I understand how security is of key importance at large gatherings, but with improved management these issues could have been tackled.


As we entered the gates, breathless but still excited, we were in awe of the huge space taken up by the festival; Beach Park is enormous. The park was alive with lights and musical magic in the air. The main stage where singers were performing was at the far end of the park and the blasting music beckoned us straight to it. Black leather jackets appeared to be the dress code of the night, where groups were spotted sipping from cups of matka chai and steaming hot Nescafe coffee [which you could get for free, after making a long beeline]. At around 9:30 p.m. Natasha Baig took the stage with large crowds flocking at the feet of platform singing along to her. Despite the relentless energy of the singer to awaken the attendees, the crowds lacked the stir and energy typically generously showcased by Karachiites.


Moving to the “food” part of the Festival, we began our hunt for the best and pocket-friendly options out there to satiate the hunger. Intrigued by the name and the popularity of stall Chip n Dips, I tried their Rainbow Fries topped with seven different dip sauces. The combination was amazing and for the worth of Rs 300, I enjoyed it well. Next on my list was the hyped matka chai, but just eyeing the long queue at its stall, I turned on my heel and went for Asli Kashmiri Chai instead and was not disappointed. The nutty, grainy taste of the steaming beverage helped restore my waning energy. Despite the presence of so many food stalls, I felt that the festival missed the note on the food part. Most stalls seemed to be trying their hand at the food scene of the city and known brands just decided to sit this one out. The different enticing varieties of food stalls one is accustomed to spot at KEat were clearly amiss from this festival. And I soon figured the reason behind the absentia of so many major eateries from the Coke Fest. According to the grapevine, the annual Karachi Eat, which is sponsored by Pepsi, discourages its food vendors from participating in the competitor’s sponsored festival – this I learnt from popular food vendors who serve at KEat.


Distraught by the food stalls and bored by the concert, we planted ourselves on the ground chugging down lassi from a stall called Chaska. It was then, when an untoward incident unfolded, which almost had us spilling lassi all over us. Out of no where, a large group of people began to run from the further end of the stage towards the exit, followed by a thicker crowd joining them at the heels. Suddenly, the festive-full atmosphere infused with music settled into a frenzy with a stampede. My colleague and I – at this point very alarmed and alert – moved to the furthest side, to avoid onslaught. Despite us inquiring with the security guards, the cause of commotion couldn’t be known. Astonishingly, the fuss lasted for over 10 minutes by which time the security had everything under control and people were slipping into the flair of the festival again. Karachiites never cease to amuse me with their goldfish memory and unfazed attitude.

Despite its many shortcomings, what favoured the festival most on the other hand was the unexpected wave of cold that brings each one of us out, given our long-wait for the weather. While not much struck my taste buds due to the hefty damage of Rs.450 at entrance plus pricy small portions, I did think I attended a semi-cool concert for less than half a k.•