Karachi narratives: People who make and break the city

A collection of ordinary narratives, snapshots of lives lived that come together, make for an extraordinary spectrum.

The Sunday after the deadly attack on a church in Peshawar, a large number of people formed a human chain outside St Patrick’s Cathedral as the Christian community offered prayers inside. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

A collection of ordinary narratives, snapshots of lives lived that come together and make for an extraordinary spectrum. The quantitative cartography of any city discounts the spoken language that flows through barriers of sect, ethnicity, class and religion.

This piece aims to encapsulate the language beyond barriers by zooming into everyday lives.


'Koi dekhe na dekhe Shabbir tou dekhay ga’



Something fishy? Abdul Majeed manages a fortress disguised as a restaurant, at the end of 'Beech Gali'. The female owner watches over her empire  from her seat at the front


A young tour guide who only expects a boat ride, tea and pakoras in exchange for his services


Karachi does not stop for anyone – call it selfish, or resilient. A week after the deadly Abbas Town blasts, two children from the same neighbourhood make their way to school.


In March this year, a group of Karachi residents gathered at Teen Talwar to collect donations for the families affected by the Abbas Town blast. Every time the main signal turned red, Mohsin Sayeed would walk up to the middle of the road holding a poster that read: ‘Donate money for Abbas Town victims’. This woman would smile her way to the nearest car, asking people to put as much as they can to help the families.


“Every time my hands would feel a burning sensation, I would realise the pain the people must have felt burning in the fire”

Falak Noor, a graduate of the Karachi School of Arts


“Chal be shehzade, nikal iski qismat ka haal.”


Bored with the long speeches at school, one of the girls at St Joseph’s Convent School kept tugging at her classmates ponytail.


Showing solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church blast, Karachi residents held a vigil outside the press club to send the most important message of all: We are all Pakistanis and we are made in Pakistan.


Malakhraburly men fight it out at Sea View during Beach Games 2013


Lyari is notorious as the most violent and volatile neighbourhood in the city but there are resilient residents, such as the woman above, who was forced to leave when the gang wars escalated but she couldn’t live far away for long. She is back at her old house, happy within the familiar streets of Lyari.


Shoukat and Rajab Ali are speech - and hearing-impaired but they have been successfully working at the valet services at Dolmen Mall Clifton


The Sunday after the deadly attack on a church in Peshawar, a large number of people formed a human chain outside St Patrick’s Cathedral as the Christian community offered prayers inside.

Beyond the city's horizon

"Yehan sey makai smuggle karsaktee ho, Bakra karo gee tou pakree jao gee," said Talha Sultan, our 10-year-old travel guide, after I pointed out to him, between mouthfuls of fresh makai, how all goats in Manora were wearing clothes . One of them made for quite a metro fashion statement with a pink polo neck.

A goat in a pink Ralph Lauren hand-me-down polo probably encapsulates the absurd contradiction that Manora is.

It's an island. The ten-minute ferry ride from the mainland separates it from Karachi in terms of identity and function in ways that it asserts itself as an entity independent of the city that tries to claim it.

The first sign of this marked separation is the fact that it claims to thrive on tourism. When asked who the tourists are, one of the shopkeepers replied, "Well, Karachi walas obviously."

How do they become tourists, I ask him, considering the stretch of land he lives on is part of the city.

"Karachi bohat door hai."

Before I could point out the clinical numbers, I realised he was being thoughtful. He had stated this while staring at the pristine sea that made for Manora's shore.

"Agar saara din samandar ko ghoorta rahey ga tou aisee hee ajeeb batein karey ga," Talha piqued. According to him, the shopkeeper had too much time on his hands and that made him pensive.

He did have too much time. The kind where you wait for something to happen so that the excess is done away with.

The heaviness of time was something that engulfed all of Manora. It was waiting. The main street - BEECH GALI - looked like it had shut down after a long hard day of activity. It wasn't restful though.

There was an undercurrent of secrecy, resentment and a paranoia asserted by the various check posts that the Navy had set up.

"Aglee baar aap aein gee tou aap ko shayad visa leyna parey ga," the woman who was double checking my identity and the contents of my bag said hurriedly, before a senior officer came in and told us to move on quickly. Before I did, I asked her if this was Karachi.

"Karachi doosra shehr hai. Yeh Manora hai."

Where the sidewalk ends

by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends

And before the street begins,

And there the grass grows soft and white,

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black

And the dark street winds and bends.

We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And watch where the chalk-white arrows go

To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2013.


Concerned | 9 years ago | Reply

thank you

Mujtaba | 9 years ago | Reply

One of the beautiful traits of Karachi is its resilience in the face of difficulties.. For me, My Karachi, will be my ultimate love.

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