The Observer’s guide to viewing Karachi as it is.

Karachi is home to me, the sights, the noise are all too familiar. Truck sirens blaring as late as 3 a.m , people sitting on charpais when the lights are out, theilay-walay selling their stuff as they walk through the streets – it’s all so different yet you feel like you belong.

The sights are eccentric to say the least; the culture throws itself at you at every corner. Early morning you’ll see people jogging on busy highways during rush hours, double-sawariis are a MUST, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch an uncle who has mehendi-fied his beard as he rides his motorcycle like a boss.

The culture is just mesmerising. For example my nano tells me that if I ever get lost, I could always tell the rickshaw wala to take me to ‘Kashif Medical Store’ but it’s always more reliable to tell them about ‘Pehalwaan Ghee ki dukaan’ cause’ EVERYONE has noticed their huge body-builder poster on the road – it’s been there for almost half a century now.

Elsewhere are dying signs of faux western culture that is the norm in some areas – I saw a guy with an afro waiting at the bus stop, and the next second I was looking at a guy riding a motorcycle looking like he had stepped right out of the 70’s. [bell bottoms, leather shoes aur collar shirt ka scene on tha yaaar !]

Then sometimes you might be lucky enough to see something other than a Mehran or Khyber in places other than Clifton or Defence. Cars aside; Forget Harley Davidsons and Buells, you’ll find Yamaha Junoon and DYL Dhoom all over the roads here.

However the most typical sight in Karachi have to be the half-transformed transvestites that exchange duuas for money as you wait for the traffic officers to give you the signal personally [traffic signal hum jaisay logoun par zaya hai meray bhai]. If you’re a girl, get ready to be called ‘dulhan’, ‘rani’, ‘guria’ or even ‘baby’ by the more “modern” hijras – they’ll sweet talk their way into yourr wallet one way or the otherr.
There are beggars and bikharans who tap your car windows when you stop during traffic and create awkward moments as they stare right through your soul. They expect you to give out atleast a twenty rupee note if you want them gone – mehangai ka zamana hai naa.

Elsewhere presides the more -elite- class in all of Karachi – the coffee drinking, OMG texting, English speaking, brand wearing people who form a small yet openly flamboyant society lie in the more -posh- areas around Karachi; what the Mailas like to call,”the Burger people”. These people can be outright called the modern day wannabes if they’re not too careful. Converse, Sketches, Caterpillars and Vans? They have them.  How their hair remains fairly good even under the humidity that Karachi hosts is a mystery to me.

All in all, even though I’ve lived about half my like in Pakistan, it was just in the last 10 days  that I spent in Karachi that I learnt that there’s just basically one underlying law that stands for this city : Karachi to Karachi hai yaar; aur Karachi mein sab chalta haii. & everyone seems to prefer it that way.


About this entry