Coffee and gunshots on Zamzama

There were gunmen outside the cafe, openly firing. But inside, diners continued to sip their cappuccinos...

Aine Moorad April 20, 2011
Last August, a friend and I were sitting at Butlers Chocolate Café enjoying fancy coffees and chatting about life when suddenly, the cafe’s lights dimmed.

At first, I thought the power had gone out but when I saw an expression of concern on one of the waiters’ faces, I suspected there was something greater at play.

I asked the waiter if everything was okay. At first, he appeared a little hesitant to leak the news, but then he said:
“Some men are firing on the main road, outside the restaurant.”

It took me a minute to truly fathom what he was saying. I was visiting from Toronto and while I had heard of such incidents happening in Karachi lately, never for a moment had I thought that I’d be a victim.

There were gunmen outside the cafe, openly firing, treating guns as though they were fire crackers. And, we were caught in the mayhem. There was nothing I could do to avoid what was happening outside. Absolutely nothing,

"Stay calm," I told myself . After all, I was sitting in a cafe at Zamzama, an upscale street in Karachi, not some random eatery in Nazimabad.

As one of my relatives told me “Defence, Clifton mein kuch nahi hota”.  She clearly didn’t realise that one always has to be on high alert in Karachi, no matter where one is!

It suddenly dawned on me that my driver, Ishaq, was waiting for us in my car outside. Worried about his safety, I called him on his cell phone. When he didn’t pick up my heart began to race. I anxiously called again, hoping that he was alright. At last, he answered.

“People are firing,” he blurted in Urdu. “There are men on motorbikes with guns." I could hear gun shots in the background.  He instructed me to stay in-doors.

My friend and I looked at each other; our ‘catching up’ session had come to a startling halt.

But amid such chaos, I couldn’t help but notice something striking. I was amazed by how calm everyone was in the restaurant.

People weren’t crouching under tables, worried about being injured nor did they appear to be panicking. Perhaps, they were worried, but there wasn’t an atmosphere of fear in the air. I remember thinking, "God forbid, if a similar incident happened overseas, people would not react like this."

I could barely eat the extravagant chicken pie I had ordered and wondered how people could swallow their food, knowing that there was a high probability of being injured, or worse – shot dead. The cafe had glass windows and a bullet could have easily pierced through.

A few minutes later, I heard police sirens. My phone rang a few seconds later. It was my driver, informing me that it was safe to exit

The next day, the street was  full of busy shoppers and diners as usual, the same street – targeted by dangerous gunmen – only a day earlier.

I was thoroughly impressed by the way the Karachiites had handled the situation.

It seems Pakistanis have become immune to such occurrences so they continue living – with or without fear, they live – kind of believing that if they’re destined to die, they will. And perhaps this is the best way to live. After all, for how long can the people of Pakistan live life behind closed doors?

We only live once.
Aine Moorad A sub editor on the business desk of The Express Tribune. She is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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