Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are those of the author’s and don’t necessarily represent or reflect the views of MangoBaaz.
By: Mohammad Nazar Syed
In the December of 2012, I left Karachi and my whole family migrated to Toronto, Canada. It was an emotional journey from continent to continent, and the minute I stepped foot in the great city of Toronto, I had an itch to go back. Lo and behold, after almost 4 years, I returned to the motherland, and here is my account.
What changed after I returned to my city after four years?
I stepped out of the Jinnah International Terminal with my bags in my hand and breathed in as many toxins and polluted air particles as my lungs could withstand. The air was filthy, dirty and as Karachi as it could be. I’m going to completely skip the part where I was mistreated by the airport officials. I think a Junaid Akram rant video should suffice for that. Instead, I’ll move on to how many times I had to stop to pick trash from the wheels of my carry on. Countless.
When I sat in my cousin’s car, who was half an hour late to pick me up because of the traffic on Shahr – e – Faisal, I leaned over to pull my seat belt only to get a stare of eternal death from him. Alas, I let go of the safety tool and sat cross-legged holding the plastic bar on top of the door. Safety is as serious as Aamir Liaquat in Pakistan.
I felt like four years in a different country wouldn’t change my perception of the city as much, but boy was I wrong.
Karachi traffic surprised me. It shocked me. No, it scared me. The cars have doubled, the motorbikes have tripled and the street carts and thelay have grown exponentially. It took us two hours to get home from the Airport to North Nazimabad, where I was settled.
There is no patience left in many people, the traffic situation was enough to prove my theory. Horns and high beams, middle fingers, swear words, pushing, and shoving. All of the short tempered indecencies revolving around humans was visible in my two-hour ride back home. All the while I hummed ‘Angela’ by the Lumineers under my breath. Home at laaast. Home at laaaaast.
Home was different.
I stayed over at my Aunt’s who had no idea I was coming. The surprise paid off. I felt at peace again, with my people, with my family but all along something still ached. It must’ve been the Post Karachi Traffic Syndrome because nothing else explains the nervousness and restlessness that followed.
I remembered a speed bump at the corner of the street where my Aunt’s house was. It was gone, and in its place was present an 8-inch hole that seeped sewage water and pointy rocks. I was on the balcony when I saw it happen, a motorcyclist driving by, slightly impatient and seemingly in a hurry when his front wheel was caught in the hole and he was thrown off his ride and on to the asphalt pavement. I knew then if I walked up to the man and asked him if he would vote for who he had voted for previously in the elections, he would still say yes.
The political climate of the city was still the same.
I witnessed two historic political activities in my 4-week span. One, Pakistan Murdabad by Altaf Hussain. And two, Imran Khan trying his best to cash in Pakistan Murdabad by Altaf Hussain. Both ridiculous in their own respect. I asked MQM supporters about the now Ex-Party Leader’s statements. The answers varied from “He’s a lunatic” to “Jo Bhai kehrai hain sahi keh rai hain.” I had to laugh it off. Some people in Karachi can be so naïve at times.
Imran Khan had more of a presence in Karachi when I lived there as opposed to now. He’s almost wiped out and I saw a lot of Mustufa Kamal supporters sprouting up.
Politics is a weird game in Pakistan, no doubt.
What actually redeemed my Karachi trip was the amount and variety of food I ate.
SO. MUCH. FOOD. I was actually very impressed at all the new cafes and eateries that opened up in Defence and Clifton. They had a foreign vibe in an otherwise not so foreign culture. The burger joints and the pizza points as well as the street dhabbas that were now franchised all seemed like a big step forward for the food industry. The lack of shisha cafes also ignited my excitement. I despised them before, and their smokey presence was surely not missed by me.
The Halaat of the city in general were a lot better.
I spotted the Rangers more often than I spotted the police, but whatever floats the city’s boat, I guess. Street cricket, my own little sporting paradise was still blossoming like it used to, and I had my fair share of night matches and tournaments in my time there. I was very pleased to see that the Pakistani people still valued their art, for Coke Studio was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. That show is celebrated in Pakistan as Christmas is celebrated in the West it seems at times.
The class divide in the city still stayed persistent.
For anyone from that side of the bridge was considered a maila and anyone from this side of the bridge was considered a burger. Racial and ethnic profiling simmered down, until the political climate of the city heated up and everyone was back to ‘tu Muhajir, tu Punjabi’ etc.
I was disappointed, mainly at the people of this city.
So many people didn’t want to change anything about themselves for the greater good. How many people acted worse, if not the same from the last time I was there. So much has happened, and yet the people remain in defiance to their own revolutions. That was sad. What was hopeful was in all the ignorant darkness, there were small candles of hope burning through the youth that I saw. People like myself who’ve seen how just a simple act of throwing your trash in the garbage can help you have a cleaner sense of living. That’s all it takes to fix a metropolitan like Karachi. One act of kindness.
Hope to see better days for the city and country.
About the Author: Nazar is a student of Electrical Engineering at the University of Ontario. He hopes to pursue his dream of becoming an author in the future. He can be found on his Instagram and Facebook poetry page.
Cover Image via: Akhtar Soomro for Dawn.com