A room with a view (III)

April 19, 2010

LARKANA: We take an unleisurely stroll around Larkana at night.

The Graduate, one of my guides, points out a dark opening in a wall. “Look at that,” he says. I can barely make out a room that leads through to other darker rooms. The insides are lit by an oil lamp but I cannot see anything through the hazy flickers. “What is it?” “Men go in there,” he replies. “They rent charpoys.”

We continue walking.

I feel that The Graduate wants to say more. “Is it a hotel?” I prompt him. He replies that it is not like the hotel where I am staying. “There are hijras there,” he says. “The men take a bed. The hijras go to them...” I stop in my tracks and look back but The Graduate keeps walking so I carry on.

I cannot help but think that if I lived here in Larkana the sweetest and sexiest being I would encounter would probably be a hijra. Where else and to whom else could those frenzied by desire turn? On my return to Karachi a few days later I read that in Larkana there is an increasingly rampant outbreak of AIDS. I chat with a bellboy on the roof of my cheap hotel under the smoggy Larkana night sky. “What’s down there on the street?” He points out restaurants and a good shop for buying chappals.

I point to a building and ask him what it is.

“It’s a mandir.” “It looks rather impressive,” I press. “Is it old?’ He says he does not know. “Are you not from Larkana?” “No, I am from Larkana.” I looked down at the street. “But we don’t go to mandirs, sir,” he feels the need to say. There is no leisure in Larkana. When one is not working there is nothing to do apart from eating or watching television and so that is what everyone does. I ask a man if he goes to any of the small parks I have seen dotted around the city. He replies that he only goes occasionally because there are too many heroin addicts sprawled across the grass.

And so the revolution is being televised.

Where it will turn is anyone’s guess. The revolution is certainly not being written. I ask my hotel bellboy if I can have a proper table in my room. One I can write on. He comes back thirty minutes later with a sweat on his brow and an apology on his lips. He’s looked in every free room. There are no writing tables in the hotel. Coming from Karachi, with my big-city arrogance, I find that my bearing is that of a Gulliver among the Lilliputians for the first hours of my adventure. My paces are slow and measured as if I fear I might step on something.

The aircraft to Moenjo Daro airport is a toy plane.

There are two seats on either side of the aisle and it wavers freely in the air as if wielded by a loose-armed boy. On the Moenjo Daro-to- Larkana drive, the people and buildings and even the skies and the landscapes seemed limited rather than vast.  ankfully I shake off this attitude after a while. We people from the big cities bound around small towns with big heads and small minds - not because we feel superior but because we have an itch in our spine which prods us - what if, with our muddled metropolitan lives, we might actually be missing something?