The gentler perspective


Karachi Dichotomies

By Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam

Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for writing. Her focus is human rights, gender issues and reproductive health. She loves blogging, traveling, is a chaai person and a wannabe photographer. Her pet peeve is marginalization on any grounds. She lives in Karachi & blogs here.



My morning today starts like any other woman’s who lives a comfortable life in Karachi. The irritating snooze alarm, the getting out of the comforter to feel a shudder of chill of the air conditioner. The slight dullish headache….the tell-tale sign of broken sleep in Ramadan. I miss my morning cup of tea. Once ready to step out of my room, I get into the fast lane immediately after getting up, like only Karachiites do (or so I like to believe). I sort out papers for my daughter’s admission into an academy for A levels. I sort out the to-do list in my mind. An iftari to go to. Groceries to fetch. A trip to the tailor.

And through it all, in the back of my mind, I know well that a majority of the population in my city is not so lucky. Either at the hands of poverty or ethnic violence or a struggle to make ends meet. This realization is like my dullish headache….not too painful, but there, nevertheless.

I switch on the lap top and tv, and flick through channels while I check Facebook. Seeing status updates, enjoying a few and skipping over a few boring ones, I reach a string of updates that have the sad face emoticon and it says “haai Karachi”, “Karachi bleeds”, “30 killed in 25 hours” and the like.

“Not again”, I say to myself and switch to a news channel. Yes, the ticking time bomb has exploded yet again…..Karachi is burning once more. And this time, the creativity of terrorism has given it an entirely new facelift…..bodies are strewn across the city. People are being kidnapped, mainly young boys. Entire busses with people on board are abducted. Rocket launchers are being used. A state of war! No one knows who is killing who, and why.

As Karachiites, we know that things are never really normal or peaceful in this metropolis. Somewhere, 24/7, people are being mugged or looted at gun point, and women are being molested or raped. The sound of jackboots and the images of security personnel on every street are something we are used to.

We know all this, but life must go on. It is not that we are apathetic. But it takes, sadly, a little more than that to make us take it very seriously. We feel bad about the routine bad news, but we indulge into escapism. The chick flicks mostly help us, the gentler gender that is(I refuse to call us the weaker sex!). We switch the channel to watch Bulbulay or Koffee with Karan or something like that and feel better. In certain parts of the city, where we are slightly more insulated, we will be in an “I feel horrid yaar about what’s happening. It’s so depressing! Lets meet up for some coffee” mode. Some Red Velvet Cake, some mocha latte, some juicy gup shup and voila! Life seems less grim.

But every few weeks, something bigger happens. Things seem to spiral out of control. The city reaches a point where one thinks “could it get any worse?”. Sadly it does get worse, every time. And the gap between the “big” happenings is becoming uncomfortably smaller. The effects of this mayhem have begun to reach all areas. Selfish as humans innately are, we really sit up when something happens inside the bubbles called Defence and Clifton.

But thank God for the silver linings!! A friend’s status on FB tells me that 30 people were staying over at his house as they could not reach their homes due to the widespread violence. People unknown to him. Shopkeepers, traders. In this time of disillusionment and very real perils, this family opened their doors to host total strangers! In spite of all this insanity, people continue to lend a hand.

Yes, these silver linings are isolated incidences. The bitter realities are far more in number. The heart-breaking stories keep resurfacing and crush our hope.

But hope is a die-hard and intransigent thing by nature. So we cling on to these small silver-linings, and try to move on.

People say Karachiites should stand up and take to the streets, should recoup and should rightfully reclaim their city. To that I say “but we never gave up on it”. This city is ours, we own it to the point of having a naïve hubris about it which keeps us going, and our optimism refuses to let us let go of it. We are here, and when the time is ripe, we will stand up. For now, our energies are spent trying to make sense of the senseless. We are resilient, but exhausted. For now, it’s good enough that we continue to live in this most dangerous of cities, and still nurse hope.

As I began writing this first of a series of columns for Pak Tea House, I realized that I had much more upbeat and exciting ideas to write about. But in the present circumstances, zoning out and disconnecting with what’s happening around me would be moot. So Karachi, here you are, once again my joy. Once again my bane.

While I am about to finish writing this, one of my besties calls. “In the mood for some coffee after taraweeh tonight? I’m feeling so low after seeing all this on tv. But let’s go some place close by, some place safe. My treat,” she offers. It does not take me more than a few seconds to say yes. I update my FB status and make it about the Karachi situation, and then start planning out what to wear to coffee in the evening. Such is the dichotomy of a Karachiite.





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