Nonsensical and sometimes not-so-nonsensical rants about what may or may not be going through my head. Try to liberalize your canvas of interpretation when reading these posts - you will go far...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

There is a street in Karachi that follows the moon

"There’s a street in Karachi that follows the moon,
 It is an alley without a name
 It is an alley that ceases to exist when the moon disappears
 But it is an alley all the same
 And one that says more about Karachi than anything you’ll find on a street map.”
 --Kamila Shamsie in ‘Kartography’

To belong to Karachi is to be steeped in its mystery, to inhale with each breath an intensity of feeling that demands expression, to sense air pockets of loveliness just when your lungs can’t take anymore congestion or pollution, to be swept away by its majesty. The city’s ambience has molded my sensibility and also my emotional responses. If I toss up the word Karachi and close my eyes, the city conjures up beauty and fragrances; flowers blooming in a carnival of jewel colours, the scent from water sprinkled on parched earth.

It hits you in unexpected moments, this city’s romance, everywhere. Perhaps this is the word that best captures this thriving, chaotic metropolis: romance. Romance floats in the very air of Karachi, between the molecules of pollution and the aroma of food, cooking at every roadside dhaba. Romance peeps in through the haze and fog of a winter Karachi morning, as the sun struggles manfully to shine through. The very climate of Karachi personifies passion, whether it is the scorching heat of a summer afternoon, thunder and rain of a monsoon downpour or the angry red sky of an approaching dust storm.

Karachiites also experience this romance when they recall the haunts of their childhood. Their memories are laced with sensuality and not just of the carnal kind. They recall the feel of the warm sand when they ran barefoot on the beach, the heavy fragrance of the salty sea, the familiar echo of the Arabian Sea in the seashells and the taste of the strawberries and watermelon they bought from the thelewala. Large “packs” of friends are an idiosyncratic part of Karachi’s kaleidoscopic culture. When Karachiites look back with nostalgia, they remember huge groups of friends blind to past hostilities and fixed on a joyful present, living life like there’s no tomorrow.

When it comes to rain, every Karachiite has a story to tell, each more horrific than the last you heard. However, every year there’s a certain amount of trepidation but there is excitement too, as we wait for the leaden sky to spill its watery cargo. So why do we wait, pray and actually enjoy rain when all it brings is trouble and toil in its wake? (Read: electricity blackouts, traffic jams and blocked sewers). The simple reason being it reflects the indomitable spirit of the people of Karachi. The spirit that keeps us going in the face of each fresh disaster, the spirit that grows more resilient the more it is battered, the spirit that knows how to enjoy life even while stuck an a traffic jam or power cut. 

We belong to a city invested in story telling. It runs in our veins like blood. Karachi at its worst is a Karachi unconcerned with people who exist outside the storytellers circle, a Karachi oblivious to places and people who aren’t familiar enough for nicknames. At its best, Karachi is intimate with strangers. I am truly proud to call myself a product of this city. I love this place for all its madness and complications, for the unconditional love it offers and for the enigma it is.

Submission to The Oracle '09


  1. sammy!!
    what a wonderfully written piece - i'm so very proud of you :)
    karachi, how i love thee. some of my favourite parts are 'for the leaden sky to spill its watery cargo' - interesting choice of words - love it, as well as the whole romance aspect you have brought in. brings a new perspective to the city we have grown in and learnt to love :)
    keep writing and sharing!
    good luck

  2. *goosebumps all over*
    I love this.
    It's sad how I've never really experienced this-intense love for a place, with all its beauty, ugliness and most importantly, that line where both merge. :)

  3. Thank you so much.
    Karachi truly is an inspiring place. :)

  4. Okay Seriously awesome...:)
    This post turned me on :D (Sorry couldn't help it.. It's my middle name.. :P)