Post 2 of 12 – On Karachi Continued…
I wish I had known her better. Twenty years of calling her home, and still knew the city at the surface. In a way, I wanted to make up for the regrets taking hold before I departed. Just a few weeks before, random assailants had stormed through the airport, wreaking havoc on the tarmac. Karachi paralyzed in terror. Her bazaar shutters rattled shut shortly after due to civil unrest, triggered by a political party in the city. And yet, she remained sturdy and resilient. Life went on.
One afternoon, when I could take a break from work, I decided to wander off on my own. My office building was located at the cusp of Saddar. The city’s old, colonial heart. Three years working there, and I had never appreciated that fact. But it felt too little, too late. Karachi had always been there, and I had always been asleep.
Just across the street from Zainab Market, I noticed Karachi’s invitation to sit awhile. To observe the life teeming through her smoggy vessels. Sometimes, I felt surprise at how a city like her can keep going, day in, day out. The chair broke once, worn down, but somebody still found a way to make it work. Nailing it to a lop-sided tree trunk. The innovators with all their jugaars. It made me see Karachi for who she really was, a staunch survivor. In a way, it felt like the whole city stood on a network and foundation of different scaffoldings. One piece supporting another, built out of an urgent need, until they were made to function as permanent cogs in a rusting machine.
But the ones on wheels have no patience for the ones walking by, and the ones strolling are blind to what goes on to the left and right. She’s a busy, chaotic city. If only we were not ignorant of the consequences of our doing. Short term solutions are only that. Short term. If only we were aware that termites from the diseased tree would eventually consume the chair. If only we had sat with her awhile and learnt. If only we knew how all the scheming behind closed doors makes her suffer and crumble.
I continued walking, grateful for the invitation to observe. Enough reason to believe that Karachi’s heart was still there. There was much more to see, hidden only so that we can learn to find it for ourselves.