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Karachi. Half forgotten, yet cherished like a mother. From where I am now, she feels so distant, a far away city. Most of my memories, good and bad, are all part of this vast metropolis. I took this photo from the rooftop of my office building a few years ago. It was merely the eleventh floor, but most of the city’s rooftops were clearly visible. There are no skyscrapers in Karachi, and it is hard to get a bird’s eye view of the scattered mess of streets and buildings from most rooftops. A privilege. Sometimes I felt rewarded for drawing my gaze out among the maze of buildings, identifying a landmark. The old Imperial Bank building, the high rising cranes near the port or the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam, the nation’s founder.
Most days, like everybody else, I would be lost in the thick of things, unable to ingest Karachi in her entirety. Sometimes, when my mind became clogged and jammed with work, I would often come upstairs for a few minutes to get some fresh air. To refocus. The rooftop was mostly empty except a few employees taking a smoke break by the stairwell. A hint of Karachi’s sea-ward breeze was always stronger up here, always a great help in the hot summers. Whenever I heard the mad chaos of traffic in the streets of Saddar nearby, I felt grateful for being stuck working past the rush hour. Life made it difficult to look past oneself. And so it has been for most of Karachi’s citizens. For most of us.
I think it was those little trips upstairs that helped me get some of that greater focus back. In a way, I learned to observe Karachi in my last year in a way I had never looked at it growing up. A broken city often plagued by civil unrest, and yet diverse in cuisine, culture and home to over twenty million people who made it through their day. Day by day. Every day. She was the perfect fit under the definition “Rising Asia.”