Karachi is... love
There is more to Karachi than we know. There is love. Hard to admit, but yes it exists.
I started this year with a blast, quite literally, and to date, this city has taken more lives than you and I could have expected. Being an average student trying to live an average life, I have been told to reach home ‘foran’ (immediately) innumerable times and have seen my siblings dance over missing school or exams due to unforeseen circumstances.
This city has become no less than a war zone and those who just thought ‘yeh kya bakwas hai’ (what is this crap) to themselves are seriously delusional.
In these past few months, I saw a leader being arrested, witnessed an acquaintance get shot in the head and heard about countless snatchings with statuses like,
“Got mugged, don’t text or call.”
I was told that people from Karachi get immune to the sound of bullets and wails of dying people.
Truth is, no we don’t.
We just take out a few moments to grieve silently and then bury ourselves into a deeper hole of helplessness, convincing ourselves that everything will be okay. We are stuck to the TV screen for hours, watching the wrecked state of this city and its people, and then later just forgetting about it like it never happened.
While deep inside, my accusing fingers are secretly pointing at our good-for-nothing leaders; I can’t help but wonder that there is more to Karachi than what we spit our blames at.
There is love. Hard to admit, but yes it exists.
It’s in the scent of Sea View that most of us scorn and twitch our noses. However, for the rest of the Karachiites, love is sitting on the rocks or having unbalanced camel rides, clutching tightly onto each other’s waists. It’s in that black sand and ice cold water that touches the feet and soothes the fear of being out in the open unprotected, under the naked sky of this ‘fearful’ city.
It may not be in the foreign television shows or behind the overly dramatic eyes of ‘Hum TV ke actors’. Instead, it’s behind the grieve-stricken eyes of the brother who cries over his sister’s ‘jahez’ (dowry). It is hidden under the sweat of the middle class man who takes out his rickshaw every day to stand in the CNG line so that he can get his kids to school the next day – a voiceless cry for their educated future.
Love is behind those bun kebabs full of unhygienic deliciousness. And in the streets of Dhoraji where one cup of gola ganda and two straws can define us, something that nobody in any other part of the world could ever understand. It’s behind buying your wife or ‘bachi’ a gajra while embracing the scent. And only we understand the intimacy of the nakaab wali aunty, tugging comfortably onto her moochay walay husband on a motorbike. It lies within a man sitting in a Corolla or City, determined to buy ‘motiya ke phool’ in preferably, or most definitely ‘20 rupay ke chaar’.
Love is the overly-loaded bikes of Karachi men of all ages; their silencers screaming out their excitement from behind their rides. It lies in the woofers of the guy blasting ‘Bewafa’ in his car. When you know that love for him may take a little longer to find.
It’s in the lost eyes of the old man who sits on his balcony from afternoon to dusk, listening to ghazals on his radio and waves at every child who passes by. And in that moment you realise that he knows more about love than you ever will.
It’s in the smile of the mother who finally realises that she has parented her children to be models of not perfection, but good human beings; simple, loving, caring humans. It’s behind the eyes of grandparents simply awing their generation with tear-filled eyes, blowing Ayat ul Kursi and feeling wondrous but old and nostalgic at the same time.
You see it in the air of the magical hand that pushes the Ferris wheels parked at the corner of the streets of some unknown locality. Or in the delighted screams of the barefoot children dressed in shalwar kameez running around muddy streets like it’s the most exciting thing ever.
We witness it amongst the late night baraats and after a week of tiring mehndi dance practices. Or just chilling at one of the hundred cafes located on Khayaban -e- Sehr! Sheesha or Bundu Khan, ‘meetha’ or ‘saada’ khushbu wala paan, love is in our food. It’s behind the eyes of the old bhutta wala after school hours or the sabzi wala when the scorching heat does not deter him from making his ends meet. It’s in the smile of the rider when you tip him for home delivery, or in the smell of the freshly baked naan that two children share in the car even before it reaches the dining table.
Love is carved amongst the ‘sher- o-shairi’ behind buses and trucks. Or the bright blues, reds and yellows behind the loud and gurgling rickshaws waggling on the busy streets. It’s in the joy of bargaining for a pair of jeans at Sunday Bazaar, or merely in the satisfaction of watching a late night movie show and conveniently spending your pocket money on it.
But love does exist. It exists in the mere air of this city.
Love is waking up in the morning after a riot because you know it is routine and that you cannot give up. Not now, because this is not about you. It’s about everyone associated to you, who are dependent on you. It is realising that this is what survival looks like. Not for yourself but for them. It’s messy, incomplete and heavy on the hearts of those living here. But it’s there. If one Pakistan versus India cricket match can unite the whole city into loud chants of team green, I can proudly say that love exists in this patriotism we have buried within us.
You, as an individual, are more than just a green passport. You are Pakistani. And one that has to survive these conditions. No storm lasts forever. So believe in yourself and make the change. For all I can say is that the only determination I know is a flashback of the sights you all have witnessed living here.
This is your home.
Don’t let it slip off your judgments and hopelessness. Not so soon. You were born to conquer, to fight. And Pakistan was born to prosper; one city at a time, wanting nothing from its people but the satisfaction of being loved back.
This post originally appeared here.