Archive for May, 2005

Burn


The fire in the young man’s eyes dwindled, just for a second, when he saw his target. The ancient road bride, it seemed ridiculous to even think it, seemed familiar to him. He stopped for a second, staring hard at the faded orange trimmings and the distinctive crown placed at the top of her head by some optimistic owner.

The young man shot a look over his shoulder at his comrades and, once certain nobody was paying attention, swiftly went around the side of the old road bride to get a closer look. Carefully, he hid the can of petrol he had been carrying behind one of the tyres and stepped closer to the side door. The once colorful trimmings that had proudly greeted passengers was peeling and dusty, but he climbed in through the door anyway. On pure instrinct, he quietly crept forward past all the empty seats in the men’s section and finally came to a stop near the first seat in the women’s section.

On seat closest to the window, he noticed someone had poked a hole the size of a child’s fist in the plastic seat covers. In a daze, he slowly lowered himself onto the uncomfortably small seat, right next to the small hole in the cover and gently fingered it. Overcome by a suddent urge, he rolled his own hand into a fist and tried to fit it into the small hole. Of course it doesn’t fit anymore, he thought with a small flash of anger. Nothing fits anymore. He twisted his body around to look at the cage that was the men’s section, half expecting to see his father, hunched over and sweating, holding on for balance with one arm, but always ready for a conspiritorial wink. He suddenly remembered his father’s luxurious moustache, always resembling an upside-down ‘V’. The ends would elevate until they were almost level, forming an almost straight line with the force of a smile a man reserves for his pride and joy.

The boy fingered the hole in the seat covers one last time then reluctantly rose and walked towards the men’s section once again. As he passed the empty seats, he proudly hunched the way his father must have done every day. Before he knew it, he was out in the street again. Suddenly his father’s smile was eclipsed by the image of his bullet ridden body, left out in the streets as men and women alike gathered around and watched, distant and uncaring as trees that surround a clearing. A premature frown reappeared on the young man’s face as he abruptly swung around and resolutely picked up the can of petrol he had earlier hidden. The world would burn tonight.

Teray Tann Mein
Teray Mann Mein
Teray Ghar Ko Aag Lag Jaaye
Aur Tujhay Jaagna Aaye

– Saari Raat Jaaga, Noori

May all who lost their lives in the tragic violence in this city rest in peace. Ameen.

Is it May that does this to Karachi? May last year was a bloody affair too. A spate of bombings, torchings, strikes, unrest. Last evening as I headed home there was a huge crowd at the JPMC. I assumed it was an accident; a real bad one. Only on reaching home did I get to see that dreaded breaking news of a blast in Gulshan e Iqbal. And a worrying call late in the evening from my brother who said he would be coming in late from work, once halaat in the city have cooled down a bit. Reports came in of KFC at NIPA Chowrangi being set on fire. With people trapped inside. This morning all fuel stations were closed. Or cordoned off.
This morning papers report the aftermath. Names of people dead. I try to make sense of how an AC Technician, a waiter, a security guard and a sweeper may have been compromising Pakistanís sovereignty; pushing the Zionist/America/British agenda. How an evening meal out with family could brand you traitor punishable by torching.
Where do all these enraged mobs come in from? All armed? And where is law enforcement? I just hope the P and PM do not come to the city and make life any bad than it already is with their pumped up securities and unfeeling sympathies. Be careful everyone. Keep safe.

Bloody Monday.

Karachi. There’s always something new I learn here everyday. There’s always a different way I see this city – sometimes as comforting and alluring like kay manages to portray it like in her blog. Today, at 9:15 PM, I saw a bus being set on fire for the first time in my ten year sojourn in Karachi; right in the middle of Stadium Road – which I assume was a protest to the suicide bomb attack in a Shia mosque earlier today. Flames burned bright from windows where people usually see Karachi’s sights and sounds pass by. Cars screeched to get away from the site, an ambulance’s siren shrieking above it all. This is Karachi tonight, burning to the core.

Driving drivel

BBC lists tailgating and using a mobile phone while driving as the biggest threats on UK roads. That would be a threat on any road, anywhere; much more in Karachi than elsewhere as all forms of wheeled transport vie for just that half a foot of space to get ahead.
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The 5th KaraFilm Festival

kara.jpg

The organizers of the KaraFilm Festival have announced submission dates for the 5th KaraFilm Festival – its 15th August 2005, so everyone and anyone interested – send your stuff in and start rehearsing for Q and A sessions =)

For more info and submission guidelines, check out the official KaraFilm Fest website.

The Walk

On good days, I tend to believe people are intrinsically good, unless proven otherwise. On a bad day, other people are to be avoided at all costs. It’s a testament to the diversity of people in this city that I keep going back and forth with this internal debate, illustrated well by a short walk I had to take to get home today.
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Road building and breaking.

It seems that we are, at heart, a nation of road-breakers. The entire road opposite the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) has been dug up for weeks now, and I don’t see any work being done on it whenever I pass by, though I could be wrong as I’m not a resident of the area. Its a major inconvenience to students of the two colleges in the vicinity and the patients and doctors at AKUH and the neighboring Liaquat National Hospital. When will the country’s road builders and road breakers learn that not every road can be upturned and left untouched for months?!?!

More Loadshedding

I realize there have been many posts about the electricity (or lack thereof) problem in Karachi. Oddly, if frequent loadshedding were done in the winter, when most are happy to open up a window and enjoy nature’s air conditioning, the people would be much happier. For reasons unknown to me, KESC absolutely must torture us all by loadshedding in the summers. Recently, there was a very good post by Umar in the shape of an open letter to the KESC about loadshedding at night, but personally, I’d rather have no electricity at night than none in the daytime. At least at night you can go outside and, even with the minor concerns such as the possibility of getting mugged in the moonlight (which sounds oddly romantic, but isn’t), you can enjoy some pale semblance of wind. In the daytime, to crank open a window results only in the admission of more hot air and to actually brave the great outdoors will result in a sunburn and instant and plentiful sweat. Also, if you’re new to Karachi and are naive enough to actually call up the KESC hotlines for accurate (or any) information about when on earth they will deign to restore electricity to your area, inevitably, you will be told “in one hour”. Upon hearing this refrain hour after hour, you will either want to throw your telephone (which is, at the moment, the only electric object working in your home) or yourself at the nearest wall.

The key to combating this problem is multiple-fold but simple. Use a generator for turning on the blessed relief that are fans during a power outage, if you posses one of these fine machines. The second phase is cold water, in any form. If you have the means, store bucketfuls when its plentiful for showers when it’s really hot and there’s no other way to cool off. Failing that, locate a swimming pool in your area, either private or public, and head on there every time the electricity lets you down. And finally, to pass the time, keep loads of batteries handy for radios and charge up those mobile devices and MP3 players. Believe me, the only way to save your sanity is to entertain yourself. Listen to music or play various addictive games on your cell phone and bitch about the power outage to friends via SMS.

Chinese Counsulate on Marriott Road

The US Counsulate was enough to casue such a mess on Marriott road that we did not need another counsulate in its neighbourhood. We are lucky that the Chinese are not yet a ‘terrorist-fearing’ nation, as once they do become worried they have enough resources to actually become a bigger pain than the already-painful US Consulate. The local govt should have avoided this mess. It would now be a tough task to ask the newly built counsulate to move the location if they finally decide on a diplomatic enclave. Or maybe the Chinese want to enjoy the attention spotlight on this road, they could once in while declare the road un-usable if the threat level rise as per the instrucions of their “highly informed agencies”.

an open letter to KESC

Dear KESC,

Don’t you realize that we have entered the 21st century 5 years ago?

Don’t you realize that electricity is no longer considered a luxury?

Do you know that by providing a service that basically sucks, you are making more enemies, than friends? Maybe you are unaware that at this time more than half of karachi is awake and cursing at you because you fail to provide them the very service for which you exist. The service that they pay you to provide. The service for which you bill them. And, the service which is taken for granted everywhere else in the world. This is the time of the night when people have the best sleep. This is the time after which they start getting up and prepare for their daily activities. Had you been efficient in your job, people could have been more productive at work today. But now, I won’t be able to do anything at work because I have been awake and sweating all night, in dark, and in scorching heat, hoping that maybe next minute I will have electricity back and I would be able to sleep a little. But it’s 5 am and I have spent all night like that, and I just can’t go to sleep. And you are responsible for that, KESC! You are responsible for a wasted day at work for entire Karachi. You deserved to be sued and panaltied one day’s worth of salary by everyone who suffered because of your ill planning and mismanagement.

Dear KESC, if you have a slightest bit of shame left in you, then after reading this you will work seriously on improving your service and making sure no one in Karachi is left in dark ever again. But I won’t be holding my breath for this to happen.

Much Love,
Umar

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