I once overheard a relative comparing our state to khichri: the soggy mass of daal and rice that my mother used to concoct when my five-year-old stomach went awry. He went on to state that we lack shape, form and structure and that our priorities shift at alarming frequencies whilst issues of relevance such as our burgeoning population, climate change and water shortages are, more often than not, placed on the back burner.
It’s always easy for us to complain, sitting in our sheltered living rooms. Our dinner table conversations have almost become barometers for levels of discord and strife. We complain about lawlessness and lack of law enforcement and rising prices and increasing levels of poverty. Over steaming mugs of tea, we discuss politics and policy and foreign relations and speculate ‘what-ifs’ and make sweeping predictions. But when it comes to asking us what we’ve done to make our country – or even our city or street – a better place to live in, we tend to fall silent.
Enter a much needed civil society-led initiative prophetically titled Kar Dikhao. It has begun to teach me to love the cracks adorning my city’s visage. Aimed at restoring Karachi’s ownership in the hands of her citizens, all the project asks of its participants are good deeds: 20 days, 10 gestures of kindness that involve us venturing out of our cloistered comfort zones and making an effort to spread smiles, to show our love for our city and her people.
Kar Dikhao has infused hope within me. It has made me realise that our grievances are hollow unless we’ve stepped beyond our sheltered peripheries and made an effort to eradicate their root causes. At the same time, it has made me believe that peace and prosperity are not transcendental figments of a wandering imagination.
Because alongside an abysmal political climate, lack of national unity and escalating civil strife, I also see a populace with scores of young people that are willing to take to the streets with resilience and fervour. Amongst the youth of this nascent nation, I see resistance and the desire to defy the odds and emerge triumphant; to create a roaring wave of good that overpowers and flattens misery and despair. I see turbulent times as stepping stones towards a brighter future. I see a long, long way to go.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.