Islamabad vs Karachi: When I came to the ‘dead city’

How do I describe the journey of my dislike for Islamabad turning into love so intense?

Zoya Nazir August 09, 2011
“It’s a dead city.”

“In fact, it’s not even a city.”

If Karachiites who go to Islamabad (moving or otherwise) don’t utter these clichéd dialogues about the place, then they probably are not sane or aren’t Karachiites to the heart.

The above is exactly what I said when I moved to Islamabad five years ago with my family.
“It’s a blue-blooded lifeless place.”

“It’s not worth living in. Why did abba have to get a job here?” would be the discussion my sister and I would have time and again. Our dislike for Islamabad was so extreme we wanted to take the first available flight back to Karachi, if we could.

Even my dad, who loves the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan, was having an equally hard time settling in.

The fact that there were next to no cars on the road after 10pm, the shops would close early and that people were a little too formal was unbearable for us.

To top it off, we hardly had any company. Being social people, it was rather aggravating not having a circle of friends to move around in.

In short, our weekends involved making a trip to none other than Jinnah Super or Super Market. The only person who was open to seeing the positive picture of Islamabad was probably my mom.

Being a nature-loving woman, she enjoyed the lush greenery and calmness. Sometimes, however, the lack of company would also get to her.

I vividly remember the heated debates Sawera and I would have with the kids in our new neighbourhood about Karachi’s superiority to Islamabad in every sense. There is one thing you should keep in mind.

Islooiites are as defensive about Islamabad as Karachiites are about Karachi and Lahoriites are about Lahore. They strike back at you with arguments about how the polluted, over-crowded, crime-induced Karachi is compared to Islamabad with all its greenery and beautiful landscapes.

Talk about the lack of party and sociable environment and they’ll revert back with an argument like:
“Oh well if you know the right kind of people then Islamabad has one of the best private parties.”

So there you have it!

Five years down the road and I’m moving back to the town that was once my beloved (or was it?) hometown and I used to have a defensive attitude towards any comment that carried a slightest touch of criticism against it.

Now a new turn has occurred to my life and I am facing a scenario that is almost 360 degree opposite to what I cherished five years ago. Yes, the former is now the latter.

How I came to love the beautiful city

Ah, so how do I describe the journey of my dislike for Islamabad turning into love so intense? Forgive me for sounding so melodramatic here.

During our second year, a kind of magical transformation started taking place in our lives.  From what we abhorred the most, a kind of love began taking shape without our knowledge.

We did get used to the peaceful and quite lifestyle of the capital.  My sister and I had also made good friends in school and actually started hanging out even if it was just a trip to good old McDonalds. As we grew older, Rendezvous replaced McDonalds.

A few really amazing friends just mushroomed out of nowhere, now that I think of the wonderful gatherings we had.

My dad happened to reconnect with some really old friends who had families of their own, and as time passed, we became so frank with our uncles and aunties and their kids (normally they were my youngest sister’s age but that didn’t matter) that our weekends were not so boring anymore. Our social clique, though small, was quite welcoming.

With our rising attachment to Islamabad and its life, it so happened that when we would make our annual trip to Karachi during the summer, we wouldn’t feel as cloud-niney and euphoric. The narrowness of Tariq Road and Zainab Market would make shopping a hassle and we’d feel that good old Jinnah Super is so much better with its little crowd.

The congested roads, the long distances and most of all, the fact that we had to be super-careful of our cellphones and handbags in public would seem frustrating. Am I painting a clear enough picture here?

When friends from Karachi would come on a visit to Islamabad, rather than discovering a mutual love for our hometown, my mom would msay how genuinely content she was with small city life.

My dad however was still deeply fond of Karachi. My youngest and the then six-year-old sister, Ujala, was, as one could imagine, too naïve to form an opinion about such matters.

I really don’t know what to make of our love for Islamabad. Maybe, smaller city life has turned my mom, sister and I into “softer” people, as my dad likes to put it. He says that living the real city would make us “tough” (since he refuses to agree that Islamabad even qualifies as city).

Or maybe it’s just the human nature of getting attached to places after spending a decent amount of time there. We moved to Karachi with sad faces but let’s see how our mind changes two years down
the road.


Zoya Nazir The writer is a first year A levels student. She was an exchange student in America from 2010-2011, and did her O levels from The City School Islamabad.
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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