Karachi: A top view of the city of lights

What the vantage point reveals about Karachi


I I Chundrigar Road. PHOTO: EESHA AZAM

The world’s obsession with height will only escalate. Every country and every city in the world is competing to build the tallest this, tallest that. A city’s progress is measured by the number of floors of its proudest structure. In poet Josh Malihabadi’s words, concrete kissing the clouds is a sign of the times — and no nation wants to lay low in this race to the top. So, we decided to get to the top and see for ourselves what the vantage point reveals about Karachi, the city next to the sea that seems to fall apart and put itself together every time the surf hits the sand.

Clifton Beach. PHOTO: EESHA AZAM

Horse riding in Clifton. PHOTO: EESHA AZAM

The first thought that strikes one is: there’s order to this chaos. Even with all the pollution and smog clouding the city’s air, the sprawling infrastructure of bridges and colonial buildings exude a certain grandeur that’s all the more apparent when one looks at it from a bird’s eye view. In a city of over 20 million inhabitants, one is bound to find clutter — clutter of houses and high-rises through which peek sparsely spread trees. Yet, in all this clutter, one finds a beating heart, a pulse that defines the city’s pace. It’s racing. Cars align at traffic signals like a perpetual game of Tetris, sirens blare and honks shriek in a dizzying frenzy.




Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. PHOTO: EESHA AZAM

Karachi Port Trust. PHOTO: EESHA AZAM

Karachi’s gritty glory is quite a spectacle from the sky. The city has a brand of commotion that is defined by the noise it creates. The commotion created by vehicles plying the city’s roads merges with the sound of commerce, such as hawkers screaming on top of their lungs or the whirring of industrial air conditioners. This aural assault, however, is greatly subdued when one stands atop high ground. The deafening cacophony turns into a muffled buzz. The aerial shots somehow capture this forced and temporary serenity, with only the illumination from streetlights giving testimony to the hoopla playing out below.




Mohatta Palace. PHOTO: EESHA AZAM

The aerial shots also reveal the vastness of the city, its endless expanse of urban development punctuated by shanties and slums. But the distance from the ground not only eliminates noise pollution, it also cleans up the roads. The drifting polythene bags and mounds of trash dotting street corners are not as repulsive, perhaps lost in the very metropolitan vastness they are a product of. The stench, too, wanes. Seen from a lens up high, Karachi is a dapper doppelganger of itself.


Ali Haider Habib is Features Editor at The Express Tribune. He tweets @haiderhabib

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, January 10th, 2016.

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