Karachi – Snapshot of the City
The seasons are discriminated only in the sky. All that tells you of springs coming is the feel of the air, or the baskets of flowers brought in from the suburbs by peddlers; it’s a spring cried in the marketplaces. During the summer the sun bakes the houses bone-dry, sprinkles our walls with grayish dust and you have no option but to survive those days of fire indoors, behind closed shutters. In autumn, on the other hand, we have deluges of mud. Only winter brings really pleasant weather.
The town itself, let us admit, is ugly. It has a smug, placid air and you need time to discover what it is that makes it different from so many business centers in other parts of the world. How to conjure up a picture, for instance, of a town without birds, without any trees or gardens, where you never hear the beat of wings or the rustle of leaves – a thoroughly negative place, in short?
Perhaps the easiest way of making a town’s acquaintance is to ascertain how the people in it work, how they love, and how they die. In our town (is this, one wonders, an effect of the climate?) all three are done on much the same lines, with the same feverish yet casual air. The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits. Our citizens work hard, but solely with object of getting rich. Their chief interest is in commerce, and their chief aim in life is, as they call it, “doing business.”
What is more exceptional in out town is the difficulty one may experience in dying. “Difficulty,” perhaps, is not the right word; “discomfort” would come nearer. Being ill is never agreeable, but there are towns that stand by you, so to speak, when you are sick; in which you can, after a while, let yourself go. An invalid needs small attentions, he likes to have something to rely on, and that’s natural enough. But here the violent extremes of temperature, the exigencies of business, the uninspiring surroundings, the sudden nightfalls, and the very nature of its pleasures call for good health. Think what it must be for a dying man, trapped behind hundreds of walls all sizzling with heat, while the whole population, sitting in cafes or hanging on the telephone, is discussing shipments, bills of landing, discounts! It will then be obvious what discomfort attends death, even modern death, when it waylays you under such conditions.
This is a passage from the novel “The Plague” by Albert Camus. When I read it, I could not believe he was NOT talking about Karachi. It seems such a unique description that applies to our beloved city as well. Don’t you think?