I heart Karachi until foreign university folk arrive
When I’m feeling bored, I put on my ‘I heart Khi’ tee-shirt with the little red heart against a black background. You can see the signs spray painted all over the city from Zamzama to Sharae Faisal. (The logo was the brainchild of the late artist Asim Butt). Whenever I put the tee-shirt on, I always feel slightly smug with the thought that I’m part of an 18-million people strong city. Thank you Pakistan Studies Geography.
Last week though, that air of superiority came crashing down around my ears and in disgust I threw that tee-shirt into the back of my closet. Oddly enough, my reaction was precipitated by none other than a university recruitment talk.
When international university recruiters come to visit my school, it feels as if they have given us the ultimate badge of honour. Ha ha. I’ve made it, you think to yourself. They’ve picked me already, how could they not given that I’m so smart? But, nothing tempers that enthusiasm more than finding out how much both Pakistani and foreign universities cost. It’s usually the last slide when the presenter goes: “…And it’s only…”
Some of the recruiters are frazzled from making the rounds on a busy circuit while others are charming. The representative of the universities in Scotland had us hooked from, “How many of yer have had haggis?” And at my school we tend to be just a little more smug, like the tee-shirt, because we think we’re more informed and just overall better than anyone who has ever sent out a UCAS application to the UK. That is, until last week.
During one of the information sessions, one student got up to ask a question. “You know how Karachi is so BIG, right?” She looked around to receive looks of approval from the class. “Well, it’s such a big city and, you know, city life is SO different from life in, well, small towns, like say Oxford. So I was wondering is there cultural shock when you go to universities in small places like that?” Places the size of Defence or Saddar?
I didn’t think the question was as bad as it seemed. Many students factor in the location of their university while applying, simply because a big-city kid can get depressed in a small American or British town. And it’s not just students who apply abroad who take this into consideration. Lahore is very nice and Mughaly and Islamabad is rainy and all, but they’re not Karachi, are they? Perhaps only people from Karachi need to worry about these questions because we think that big cities are the key to everything, since we live in one anyway.
Or so we thought.
Very sarcastically, the presenter for this particular small-town university turned around and said: “You may think that you live in a very big city but honestly you don’t. YOU move in a circle that consists of, what, 400 people, who visit the same places, wear the same clothes. Tell me, when was the last time you ever went to Lyari?” Dead silence.
So, no more ‘I heart Karachi’ for a while. We have been told that, apparently, we only heart 400 people in this city.