Karachi: The city of lights, the old capital, the suffering city.
I grew up in a Johar in Sindh which was the only place I knew before. The historical Saddar shall never be forgotten as my school was there. The crooked roads and the stalls of several food and clothing items. It was always chaotic but people were always nice. The amount of churches, temples, and mosques have I seen in several parts of Karachi, just explains the diverse city. I then explored the city where Clifton Beach was a picnic for everyone, mostly on Sundays. Karachi smelt of the plant that is no more. You know, the city was so lively, and it still is, no doubt. But the amount of trauma, the people of Karachi carry on their shoulders, only they know.
If we talk about the places, then beach day was always my favorite part of the summer vacation, until and unless “halat theek hain.” Drigh Road was another city and a halt on the train track. So was Malir. Now I believe the DHA has gone into the sea while Bahria is creating alternate cities in the north. I have bad rain memories though. When my dad was stuck on Shahrah-e-Faisal and the rain was mostly a worry for us rather than being a “let’s eat golgappay and samosay” day.
Karachi was a city of lights. I could see more and sense more. It stayed up late and was noisy. Politically, these were the days of the lull before the storm. There was a sense of ethnic sensitivity. I learned about places belonging to the Sindhis which meant there were non-Sindhis as well. I also learned that a few were Punjabis which meant there were also non-Punjabis. I used to think why do we have these differences? Considering the dialogue of Srk’s movie “My Name is Khan” in which his mother said: “There are only good and bad people in the world, aur koi farq nahi.” I keep a hold of those words.
Then things happened. The ‘Muhajirs’ from UP, Bihar, and other parts of India brought their unique culture and they claimed Urdu as ‘their’ language of identity. There are stories to tell about how the politics, the society, and the civility, and hence the city, worsened over decades. As the city structure and its spirit collapse around itself, newer cities are being founded. Perhaps that is how and why cities decay and ultimately vanish and that is how new cities emerge. Perhaps that is what we are witnessing in Karachi.
The point is how it has become impossible to manage the terrible drainage system. All systems and laws are broken. No one collects the waste and none disposes it. Every day, we hear someone getting raped, shot, or dead. But you know, it’s no more surprising to none of us as the people of Karachi have been witnessing electricity issues and water shortages. Along with that Karachi is drowning in its filth. The city has no owners. MQM was manipulated for political ends by all including those who instigated procedures against it to cleanse it but ended up mixing it for political gains. The large ‘Muhajir’ majority remains lost under a lifeless and weakened MQM. The PPP does not own the city, nor does anyone else. The existing local government is a fraud. There is no political responsibility. That is how cities die. And that is how Karachi is dying.