“Khudi ko kar buland itna Ke har taqdeer se pehle Khuda bande se khud puche Bata teri raza kya hai” (Endow yourself with such will That at every turn of fate God himself asks of his slave What is it that pleases thee?) -Allama Iqbal … Continue reading TEDx Karachi – Rising above
It was an impulse that made me enter a poetry-writing contest ‘In Your Own Image’ organised by the note-worthy blog www.cypherstpatricks.wordpress.com. It was impulse too that made me choose the topic, ‘Karachi’ since writing about your own city can actually be reinvigorating.
I’ve always believed I’ve never had a poetic style of writing but my poem made it to the top 3 which made me realise I am not a bad poet, after all! So here is my ‘poetic rant’ :
Called the City of Lights, the sprawling metropolis-
but you are none of those.
You are not the city that had the blood
of thousands upon its roads.
You are not the city that was once
the setting for tales of gore.
You are Kolachi, the home of the fishermen
who once returned happily to your shores.
You are the light at the end of the tunnel
for those who wanted an escape.
You are the city that has life, mirth, laughter
and dreams, hopes, goals.
You do not have sadness, cries, screams
or rifles, ransom, roars.
You are the dhobi ghaat, the thela, the bun kebab,
and the dhaba, the mela, the chaand raat.
You have a soul, dear Karachi,
but those who call you their own,
May 11th, 2013 – The Pakistani equivalent of Tahrir Square.
The preceding election campaign, however chaotic, has made me realise that at any point in life, you can do something valuable for your country, that even in this world of stringent customs and norms, you can do your bit. From Saniya Naz, a 26-year-old woman standing against tyranny in chaos-stricken Lyari (Karachi), to Bindia Rana, Pakistan’s first transgender candidate, we all can see how Pakistanis are moving forward. The media has mobilised voters like never before and it has been an adventurous pathway that Pakistanis had never traversed together. We sat together in front of our screens to watch jalsas, to sigh over motivational speeches, to pray for Imran Khan’s health, to bite our lips over countless streams of ‘breaking news’.
For me, today’s morning was reminiscent of Eid mornings, when my father and brother return from their Eid prayers and I hug them heartily, wishing them Eid Mubarak. At 8.30, my mother’s voice woke me up today; she informed while going out, “We’re going to vote, stay safe.” But I wouldn’t just doze off while they were away. I wanted to be as much a part of this frenzy, this josh and jazba as they were. So I sat in front of the TV, my eyes glued to the screen, watching people cast their votes throughout Pakistan. I sat there praying that all would go well at the stations, that everyone’s families would return home safely. And once mine did, I felt a surge of victory, the sudden urge to hug them and cry out, “Yay, we did it!” As my mother recounted all the neighbours she met there, plus old friends who had come from different areas to cast votes, I was proud. Proud of being a Pakistani, proud of being part of a nation that has realised that these elections matter, proud to say that the whole nation united to perform a national duty.
A reporter on BBC showed how a long line of women were waiting to cast their votes in a village outside Islamabad. She congratulated them, “Shabaash!” And when an elderly woman hobbled in, supported by a man and a cane in the other hand, the reporter herself was amazed by the determination and spirit that is running through Pakistanis. It is as if it’s the World Cup finale, we have entered the arena and we will make sure we win this time as a nation and show the world how powerful we can be.
Each one of us knows that these oncoming hours will reveal our fate for the next five years, let us all pray it is a good one.
As school life comes to an end, I realize that there are loads of things that I am going to miss. One of them is the places I pass by each day in my school van. One of these places is a slum area, with squatter settlements, thatched houses, clumsily made with bricks, wood and hay. Such a settlement is not a rare sight in this huge urbanized city, Karachi. However, passing by such a place everyday, observing it, absorbing the message that it seems to send through the disorganized clutter of houses can send you into a reverie.
It’s a small network of roads that has been built among all the houses to make way for vehicles to reach the planned bungalows and the apartments that seem to be nestled among all the huts which form a boundary around this residential area. Traverse this network each morning as the sun rises above this sprawling metropolis and you’ll surely be compelled to realize that the life you lead is one full to the brim with luxuries and comforts.
The inhabitants are people leading a village life, the entrance to their tiny, dark lanes barred only by a fluttering, muddy curtain made out of a torn piece of cloth. I still remember trying to gain a peek into what was there behind the thin curtains as a six-year-old, and it only used to reveal a labyrinth of passages. Travel a bit further along the road and there is a shop or two, selling ‘paan’, the other an assortment of sweets and ‘supari’. What appalls me most is the life the children lead. Every morning, as my van passes by, the women and men are setting off to work, and the children step out of their homes, the tiny toddlers and infants heading off to the empty plots to answer nature’s call. Yes, it is a sight which invokes giggling out of the younger lot in my van but it is enough to stir emotions of pity and sympathy in any new comer to the area.
These children are leading lives starkly in contrast with the lives we lead, where we are blessed with necessities, trained about hygiene and educated to make our place in this huge, huge world. They don’t play Ludo or Monopoly or Pictionary to while away the time, they run after rolling rubber tyres, they stare at the passengers of the vehicles passing by, some of them presenting a Pakistani dance to get attention from the startled passengers.
There is a patch where a herd of cows and sometimes goats are reared and sold off at Bakra Eid time to gain income. In the summers, there are people lying down on ‘charpaais’ outside their huts, swatting mosquitoes away, while we crave to reach home and lie in a room cooled by the chilled air from an air-conditioner. In the winters, we wrap shawls and wear sweaters and cardigans to get ourselves cosy, while they still manage to live in their huts with thatched roofs and walls made of hay and wooden planks. I always wonder how they are oblivious to the world outside. They are steadfast in following a constant routine. Do they consider the ‘outside world’ a totally different place? Or think that they are better off in a place where there is no interference from the rapidly urbanizing, developing technological world and the complexities associated with it? Whatever the reason is, but it’s commendable how they’ve undergone so little change over the past few years… or maybe they have and it’s hidden from an outsider’s probing eye?
It’s not uncommon for the huts to catch fire, yes, they catch fire and get reduced to ashes, a small portion sometimes and as of recently, larger areas. When this mishap occurred recently, it was a despondent sight, with black smoke billowing into the sky, only a few belongings left intact. There were fire engines but they couldn’t revive the homes constructed with much effort. The inhabitants searched the blackened surface for their belongings among the ashes. A few days later, tents with China’s flag had been put up and the people still live in them, continuing on with their lives like before….
It was a recent trip to Hawksbay, Karachi, which made me realize that the beauty which nature has created, indeed knows no bounds. Away from the honking of vehicles, the deafening noises of a bustling metropolis was a realm which beckoned us to explore the world beyond the one we see everyday.
The sea, so serene, so calm, lay like an open world in front of us. Behind lay the busy routines of everyday life and we were here to enjoy, reveling in the delight that only nature can provide. The waves could be seen glittering from afar as the sun benignly shone upon the Arabian Sea.
It was simply wonderful to be there, they were exhilarating moments when the rest of the world was forgotten, and the surrealistic beauty in its splendour could be absorbed. Small pebbles came rolling at my feet and were flung back into the ocean by the dancing waves, as if playing with them. The waves bounced around us, they came crashing towards the sparkling, sandy shore and then slowly subsided, drawing up a calm silence before returning again with the same energy. It was a rhythmic motion which made me draw a parable between it and life. Indeed, life’s troubles are such – they strike into your life, with such force that it leaves you numb, but soon die away, enveloping you in bliss.
As I looked up, shading my eyes with my hand, the sky was clear, a pale blue, with delicate tufts of clouds. The sea and the sky seemed to blend into each other into the horizon. The sun was a spectator of this spectacle, demonstrating its Midas touch as it made the sea afar glitter like gold. The sensation was empowering – it felt as if nature was empowering you with freedom, with freshness, with radiance to absorb the beauty around you. Beauty which was so simple for the eyes to see, yet sent a powerful message to the soul – to live these moments fully, seize them and enjoy them, rare moments which are simply beautiful.