One of the most vivid memories that I can think of is one where my father is driving my family to Sea View.
It was a Sunday ritual – get up early in the morning, devour halwa poori at Boat Basin and head over to Sea View for a drive. I’m sure ours wasn’t the only family that did this – Sea View was, and still is, the place where families visit to decompress.
We would stop at the area where the sea crashed directly against the rocks and the wall that had been built as a precaution. My father would help us climb the rocks and we would sit on this wall and take in the view.
During winters, the waves would be comparatively tame. They would sweep in and out with a calmness that I envied – after all, the waves had nothing to do but be a part of the sea, but they had immense power at the same time. To a child of six who struggled to please her parents by maintaining decent grades, this seemed too easy and unfair a task.
However, the same child would be bowled over by the vastness of this body of water. With uniformity, it would recede, taking back anything it wished to claim as its own. Looking over that wall, I felt smaller than ever. I was supposed to feel safe because I was on higher ground, but I could just as easily be a part of the sea and never come back, unless it spat me out itself.
Despite all this, the sea felt like a friend.
The wind would caress our skin gently, as if it trying to communicate that there was no need for fear. It would blow my hair every which way, forcing my head downwards, where I would find crabs walking along the surface of the rocks. It was picturesque. If I was an artist, I would want to immortalize that moment in a painting.
But how does one immortalize emotions, of which there was a great abundance in my mind?
The sea alone, was not what I loved about my city.
My city – those words, themselves. With great pride, every time I wrote down my address anywhere, I would end it with my city. Karachi was as much mine as it was my father’s. It was as much mine as it was my neighbor’s. Karachi was home. Karachi was a place of belonging – a great haven where I could carve as many niches as I pleased and fit in where I deemed suitable.
Karachi, over the years, gave me my education and formed my personality. I will forever be grateful for what I was taught and what I had to learn myself. And learn I did. Thoroughly. Karachi gave me love and friendship – two of the things I value the most in my life. And I received both in quantities that made me cherish what I had. Karachi gave me my name. Karachi gave me titles which weren’t favorable, but ones I learnt to cope with over the years. Karachi gave me titles that sang of praise that I don’t think I deserve. It gave me people that presented reasons for me to write. It gave me people that presented reasons for me to stop writing and I am thankful to them the most – their spite was my fuel.
Karachi gave me late night drives and some of the best chai I’ve ever had.
It gave me dou number maal that I bargained my ass off for in various market places all over the city. It gave me bus rides where I have fallen – both, off the bus and on people. It gave me rickshaw rides in the winter breeze where I have huddled closer to my mother and have had her place her shawl on me for comfort and warmth.
Karachi gave me the privilege of going to a new country and introducing myself as a Pakistani.
It gave me the chance to prove people wrong about preconceived notions about my country. Karachi gave me its diverse culture – breathtaking churches, beautiful mosques and serene mandirs. It gave me the opportunity to experience any culture I could be a part of. It have me people that followed the belief that your imaan can be strong, even if you respect and value the religions of others.
It taught me how to make my religion my business alone and remember that everyone else’s religion is solely their business.
I’m still waiting on this to catch on, for Karachi has always taught me not to lose hope either.
Karachi gave me my role models who ripped my heart out when they passed away. It gave me family I could look up to in the darkest of times. It gave me people I idolized, who left, only to be immortalized in my heart.
I accept Karachi, with all its flaws. And I know that there are many – perhaps too many to count.
I accept these flaws because once I open my eyes to them, I can begin fixing them. My love for Karachi may be unconditional, but it is not blind. There is a lot to fix – there always has been – and it would be a privilege to stay and work alongside the few rays of hope who aim for betterment every day.
Karachi – you never experience winter and God knows there is a lot more to fix than I have years left in my life – but you will always be my sanctuary. Karachi – you will always be home.
Cover image via: samaa.tv