A city by the sea, a city that never sleeps, the city of lights, a city that draws its name from the courage of one woman called Mai Kolachi!
Call it folklore or call it a myth, but the story of one courageous woman battling a storm at sea, searching for her lost husband when no man would, is really what legends are made of. She found him safe, having been given shelter by a local chief, but the fact that she did not give up and faced her fears earned her the title of the head of her village and today, her spirit embodies the spirit of the city that grew out of it — the city of Karachi.
This city has opened its arms to Sufis, traders and travelers alike who came, saw and settled. With influences as diverse as Greek, Arab, Persian, Turk, Portugese and English, this little town has evolved into a cosmopolitan city where Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Christians have owned it with equal pride and passion. Adding to its eclectic mystery is the presence of the shrine Abdullah Shah Ghazi, built in all its glory by a Parsi merchant named Jahangir Kothari. Having lost his fleet and cargo at sea, he prayed at the then humble shrine, and upon his prayers being answered, spared no expense in giving back to the city through its patron saint. Over the years, people have attributed many miracles to this sufi presence — of Karachi being protected from aerial attacks with bombs falling into the sea, and being saved from tidal waves and cyclones that have wrecked other ports along the Arabian Sea. But amongst all the legends, the real miracle has gone unnoticed — the living, breathing spirit of the people of Karachi.
Along the coast of the recently developed creek is one such place that families throng to night after night — a terraced gem called Kolachi! It is not just the mouth-watering Lahori fish and karhai they serve that makes it work, it is also its ambience and a system that works like clockwork! The wooden structure, with its multiple decks and strategic lighting, is the result of an accomplished carpenter, an ustaad in the real sense. The courteous and efficient service, the quality of the food served and the sheer logistics of managing an establishment as large as this, is the hard work and vision of a group of young men — graduates of a local university, with no desire to flee abroad but with all the passion to give Karachiites what they want. Sitting by the sea, hearing the sound of the waves, watching the moon reflected in the water with seagulls flying along the horizon and boats sailing in the distance, the gentle Karachi breeze is what these young men have harnessed. Owais Rahim and Haider Jafri (two of the men behind Kolachi) believe that this city has immense opportunities, talent and potential — all it needs is to be channelled in the right direction and executed with honesty, commitment and hard work.
Karachi is truly representative of Pakistan, having embraced people from all over the country and even the region. Its vibrancy comes from being the hub of financial and media institutions, a city of thriving educational institutions, of working people, men and women, who are professionals, labourers, businessmen, traders and philanthropists that love Karachi and own it—and refuse to leave their land for greener pastures! Every tragedy that befalls this city brings forth hope of a better tomorrow, through its citizens that come forward to help their own. Whether they are volunteers driving ambulances, rescue workers defying death, reporters facing dire situations, cultural activists battling to keep the arts alive, civil society banding together for a cause or entrepreneurs who believe in creating job opportunities for their own people, these are the real Karachiites — from enterprising young men like Owais and Haider, to their polite maitre d’ Aftab, the skillful sheesha waiter Mujeeb and the entire staff of cooks, waiters, cleaners and managers, the human resource, the real miracle that reflects all of Pakistan and makes every evening worth living!
This is perhaps what Lord Napier saw in the future when he said — “You will be the glory of the East, would that I could come again to see you, Karachi, in your grandeur!”
The writer is an actor, anchor and a columnist with 17 years of experience in the media industry. Human development and social issues are her area of expertise and she is actively involved in related causes.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2013.
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