Originally written for: http://www.karachitips.com
You don’t need Geo headlines, or your Facebook News Feed to inform you about the latest jalsa in Karachi. You don’t need to ask anyone about the political party that rules their locality and Karachiwaley don’t need a Tahrir Square to voice out their emotions. The walls in Karachi do that. Don’t get carried away! It’s the graffiti and it can lead you to Nishtar Park any day! From chalo, chalo, Nishtar Park chalo to Karachi hamaara hai, the graffiti in Karachi doesn’t let boredom come to you as you traverse the busy thoroughfares of your beloved city!
And yes, we don’t need the ‘Keep your city clean’ kay signs, the slogan Safai nisf imaan hai does the job! Whether it be an office building, or a bungalow, or a block of flats, or even a shutter pulled down, they are never ever spared from the black spray of an aerosol can or the liberal strokes of a paint-brush. This spray and paint is used as the medium of expression in this huge city, Karachi, where your voice will otherwise tend to drown out.
You won’t receive pamphlets and letters inviting you to join a cause, rally or political party, and such organizations don’t need to spend money on these trivial things. Graffiti zindabad! Naaray, poetry, shair o shaairee, full of jazba and jalwa attract attention like nothing can, with the black paint standing out on whitewashed walls. Want to know the arrival date of a political leader in Karachi? The karkun take all the pain to paint praises, turning walls into halls of fame, welcoming their leaders like the kings you read of in Mughal folklore, and even invite you to accompany them to the airport!
And there’s one glaring fact, it is never in black and white who is responsible for all the black and white on the walls. Only the ‘bunker boyyzz’ or ‘funter boyyzz’ or ‘prakash bengali’ (whose remedies are advertised on walls instead of business cards), are those who take ownership, while all the other matter is anonymous. Graffiti has indeed made a place for itself in this bara shehr, but it’s surely a bane for the owners of buildings of those located on the busiest thoroughfares.
While the graffiti can stir emotions of patriotism and compassion for political leaders, it’s not at all a sight for sore eyes. And choona simply doesn’t do the job. The well-manicured grass and greenery on the islands along the roads create surrealistic beauty, with tall sky-scrapers rising on either side, taking you off into dreams of New York, but overnight, the attack occurs. The merciless attack of spray, paint, ruining the beauty, bringing you back into hamaara shehr, Karachi!
And as if guns and verbal attacks weren’t enough, graffiti is even used to declare war. One political party will paint its initials, an opponent will just paint theirs over it. Frustration, anger, anxiety, rebellion, against Raymond Davis or Amreeka . . . compassion for qaum ki beti, Aafia Siddiqui . . . it’s all voiced out neither through a letter to the Editor, neither through radio nor through petitions, it’s all done through the graffiti – the true voice of the Karachiites.