Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Love Letter to Karachi

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This post is taken from Astronutt's blog with her permission.


Karachi,

I miss you today. I've never been one to write love letters, except for the half written, unsent ones in my drawers, drafts, mind.

I was walking down a street in Boston and bits of you trickled down at me. a book cart in the middle of the street. the smell of jasmine - where the fuck did that come from? There was a broken building, it started breaking down fifty years ago, like that empty warehouse in flea market that no one bothered fixing but that no-one wanted to get rid of either. we Karachiites, we know this too well. How to hold on and let go at the same time.

I asked someone, when do you get to belong to a city?  Is it when you get a job there, settle down, whatever that means? I wonder if it has something to do with people. I am sure it has something to do with people.

A man at dinner told me, Of course you're from Kutch. Have you seen your eyes? and I wanted to say what are you talking about, I'm from karachi. have you seen what my eyes look for? they look for winding streets and broken stories. they search for meaning and solace in crowds they don't always find. they sparkle and come alive at the sight rain. they know when there's a stranger you can trust and when someone's had a bad day. they've memorised the shape of water against the sand and car dust in the sky the hopeful glance of a shopkeeper, rickshawala, streetchild. and they understand heartache and silence and the kind of love that doesn't make sense.

and they are often confused, just like you.

I was walking down the same street last year with a man who I'd only known through his writing. I ended up staying with him for two days. I learnt that you can know a lot more about people from how they write than from two days of occupying their couch and struggling with the formalities of human company... I wonder how I write about you? But that man, he was from karachi. He made the most beautiful paintings of you that came to my mind when I neared the end of this street now, a year later, where a homeless woman asked me for money. I didn't have any cash on me so I asked her if she wanted my lunch... she said no thank you, someone just got me some. Karachi, you're everywhere.

Someone else asked me what you're like. I said you're contradictory. they didn't understand and I thought of the essay I wrote on you two years ago. I've lost that essay... of course one would lose an essay on karachi... but I wish I hadn't so I could show it to them. maybe then they'd understand a little better. how you're hot and by the sea and overpopulated and all of that, but how you also map yourself inside me and inside the people i know and love. how i can't think about anything without thinking about you first. but you make no sense to anyone who hasn't known you, even though I tell them how your insanity helps me stay a little more sane miles away in another part of the world.

how you hold on while letting go.

If I had to give a meaning to your name, karachi, I know now it'd be that. to hold on while letting go.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Greater Picture

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And the next time you feel like you've let things slide out of your control ... that you have too much you're supposed to be dealing with ... if you fail once again, it'll be the end of life as you know it ... just take a step back and take it all in.

The Greater Picture .

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rant

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Contributed by Mariyam Khan

People rant about a lot of stuff.
Much of which is useless.
I’ll join this list.
I’ll rant about visual pollution of sorts.

Here’s my issue:
I can’t see the sunrise
Or the sea for that matter

Now you’d probably be going: so bloody well what?
Yeah, I know, people’ve got bigger issues to deal with.
But, heck, won’t you feel a teensy bit happier if a small part of your world was perfect?

The view from the Karachi beach is mesmerizing. And the sunrise…God, there aren’t enough words to describe the picture it paints. I see one of God’s most beautiful miracles every morning when I leave for school. It’s just amazing.
You can see the sun peeking out from the horizon or the clouds splayed across the never-ending sky.
The sight of the sea cheers you up, especially when you’re in a sour mood, early morning or you’ve got nothing better to do than look out of your car window,.

But you know what?
Those tankers came and blocked my view.
I mean, the WHOLE coastline is freaking blocked by 15 feet of tankers just STANDING there doing NOTHING!
I can not see the sea anymore.
Alright so there’s this wall along the coastline (God knows why) but it has these square holes in it, so you can at least get a glimpse of the sea, and be all happy.
But now the tankers have completely blocked my view!
Talk about aesthetic beauty. With the entire road littered with tanker-walon ke urzay purzay you wouldn’t even want to stand there (and try to be a part of the universe or observe nature or whatever) or even take a deep breath just for the heck of it, because you will inhale air that smells disgustingly like burnt tires, among other stuff.
So with no sea to cheer you up, you’ll probably be in a grouchy mood all day (unless you’re, like, hardwired to remain happy or something)
So yeah.
I wish I had the power to remove all of these tankers from an area that is meant for people to live in peace, a residential area. Or had a giant crane to pick each one of the tankers and throw them some place else, far away from here. Or to have the roads rid of the double-parked tankers. And just have this area cleaned of the peelay peelay keeray.
But I don’t.
And those who do have the power, haven’t really done anything.
With this ends my rant. Thank you for bearing with me.

Note: the writer is an annoyed resident of Clifton Block 1, where hundreds of Oil Tankers have been illegally parked, posing a threat to humanity, transport and nature in general.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hum-Suffer

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Contributed by Ahsan Asif


Take a trip down memory lane. A couple of years back, most Pakistani homes were flooded with the siren like ‘aaa’ of Indian serials, coupled with loud drums and an occasional flute. Sounds like these summed up how the evening of an average Pakistani woman was spent, full of drama serials that began on the clich├ęd and bordered on the ridiculous. It wasn’t long until every kid playing on the street was keen to know what was going to happen to a particular actor, thought plastic surgery could completely change your face, and ‘punar janam’ (reincarnation) became a household obsession (even today, everyone knows that the average life of an Indian drama actor is 3 lifetimes, minimum). All in all, it was a ridiculous situation.
And then came the age of Enlightenment (or the need for a scapegoat). Occurrences of eloping, especially in the lower strata of society increased dramatically, and people pointed fingers at these Indian serials, holding them responsible for sowing the seeds of immorality in society. This assumption, as well as shallow, rinses and repeat storylines of Indian dramas brought about their eventual demise. The average Pakistani woman, even household, was now bored and stripped of evening primetime entertainment.

Out of the ashes, however, rose a new creed of entertainment: Pakistani serials. To say that these serials simply filled the void left by Star Plus and Sony would be an understatement. Upon their debuts, Pakistani serials exhibited maturity, alignment with reality, and most importantly, highlighted issues that were plaguing society. Indeed, the most magnificent of these serials centered around the inhumanity of Karo-Kari, the depravity of prostitutes (and in the prostitution industry in general) as well as exposing how local ‘mullahs’ have abused their position and power to indulge in rape, molestation, fraud and even incest. They were, simply put, brilliant.

But all good things must come to an end. Very soon, all the troublesome themes depicted in the pioneering dramas of our entertainment industry began appearing all over the place. Literally. Today, around 80% of the serials running on popular entertainment channels such as Hum TV, Geo entertainment, TV One et al entail elements of prostitution, honor killing, and incidents of patricide, fratricide, matricide and spousal homicide, whose need in most serials, upon completion, are usually deemed as unnecessary. Such elements may boost TRPs, but at what cost?

Regular exposure to such themes has the danger of cultivating, in the audience, a mindset that is both pessimistic and suspicious, which is never good news. We are already a depressed nation (thank you, Geo News), drowning in problems as varied as inflation and food shortages to increasing crime and corruption. Reality is already a bitter pill to swallow. Why must entertainment, of all things, add another shade of gloom and doom to it?

For a long time now, our news channels have been using a formula that brings in TRPs: sensationalize and aggravate. An excellent example of this is how Jasmin (from Tonight with Jasmin, Samaa TV) went from prison to prison (as part of a mini series) to supposedly interview criminals. Instead of doing her job, and simply report, almost all her episodes consisted of going into a holier than thou frenzy, condemning the accused and somehow bringing God into the mix. One of her episodes consisted of interviewing a necrophiliac, and what disgusted me most was not the crime that was committed but the contempt that was shown to the accused. Her conversations usually consisted of ‘Khuda ka khoof karo, tum janwar ho, janwar say battar ho’ and a few alligator tears here and there. Instead of identifying necrophilia as a mental disorder and educating the audience about it, that episode was, from start to finish, dominated by a clown that just couldn’t get off her moral high horse and thought it was more worthwhile, as a journalist, to berate someone suffering from a mental disorder than to inform and educate her audience. (Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcGoZ6TJHQI ) This tendency to sensationalize and aggravate has crept into and infected the entertainment sector, and according to me, is one of the major factors this nascent industry is now so littered with storylines that suggest that the audience is a sadistic bunch.

Our media, be it entertainment or news, has adopted a philosophy that is beneficial to only them. Revenue, TRPs and recognition is what they seek, at the cost of birthing a mindset of pessimism and hopelessness in society. But we, as the end recipients in this chain of media transmissions, need to realize that what happens on television usually stays in the television. A drama serial may choose to display a home with extreme poverty and/or a family member who is intent on killing their family members or abandoning them for the promises of love from another man or woman, but in the process, compromise on showing families that have made it through very tough times by sticking together and looking out for each other. Our entertainment industry has a severe deficiency in portraying instances of where people have made it through tough times and with their heads held high, as opposed to how EASILY women in Hum TV serials turn to prostitution at the slightest hint on financial turmoil. In our society, and indeed our lives, hope and optimism are what keep us going. Don’t let anyone, especially eternally whining soaps, steal that from you.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Streets

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Contributed by Sana Ahmed Khan 


Karachi is known as a city that never sleeps but the moment the Sun breaks the dusk, the rays bring along a dead silence that spreads across the city. The winds become the carriers of last night’s bustle and the streets become eerie. The entire city seems ghostly and this is when the silence is the loudest.

As the morning progresses, the blanket of the stillness is gradually removed, allowing the city to wake up to the sunlight. All the sounds, chirping of the birds, rattling of the cars, cries of the children merge into one rhythm of life. This is the only time when all the classes form a bond; they all become the slaves of working hours.

Walking around the streets, you can see a mother sending her children off to school, a husband bidding goodbye to his wife, a milkman ringing a door bell and people chasing vans and buses. You can see people running in suits with a briefcase, reflecting their corporate slavery. There is a race against time and it seems as if the entire traffic has the same destination. Honking horns and arguments among constables and drivers just add to the morning extravaganza.

In contrast to the busy city life, there are some people who live through their mornings. You find people sitting in local cafes, commonly known as ‘dhabbas’, enjoying their morning breakfast of hot pancakes, tea and eggs. The aroma of this mouthwatering food spreads through the neighborhood and calls out to people.

Sometimes, even in the brightest of mornings, you do bump into the misery of this city. You would find the homeless and drug addicts lying at the corner of the streets, wrapped up in their own thoughts.  They are so indulged in themselves that they don’t even notice the mornings and the nights that pass them by. Life becomes a one big torturing moment for them but even in this pain, they find their joy.

Every morning, all the shades of city life are brought together in a palette and every color complements the other, adding to the beauty of the city. Even the social issues and violent dramas of the previous night are put to sleep when the Sun arises, bringing new hope and a new beginning to the new ending.