Karachi vs Lahore
The debate seems to be as old as the two remarkably different yet important cities themselves. Last time I was here in Lahore, it was that fateful October of 1999 that saw Musharraf taking over the power from Nawaz Sharif. Incidentally, six years later, my next visit to the city is around the same time of the year and, more interestingly, with similar but more interesting times in our national politics.
But there is so much more to life than politics – like roads, trees, rickshaws, license plates, traffic policemen and building s’ heights.
It is normal for a Karachite who has not been to Lahore for a long time to indulge in the almost involuntary comparison between the two cities of pride. While there are so many things that stand out between the two – from the color of the sand to that of the traffic policemen’s uniform here is what I noted in the first 10 minutes on the roads of Lahore:
The motorbikes are getting standardized license plates. Not only are these bigger and clearer, in due course of time when most of these motorbikes are switched to the new format, they should help in reducing the problems associated with the make-at-home number plates that are used in Karachi.
The rickshaws have their rare unnecessarily exposed. I spotted the make of the chassis to be that of Vespa and hence this seems like more of a ‘city trademark’ than a technical necessity. Their cousins in Karachi are more demure.
I also spotted the traffic policemen equipped – so logically – with a headset to let them talk on their radios while controlling the tidal flows of the city which somehow also appears to be relatively saner than that in Karachi. They looked smart. The headset, I am sure, costs nothing, but it saves the hassle of having one hand constantly engaged in using the radios – a fate that finds its way to the traffic police in Karachi.
I did not travel in the old city except for once during these 48 hours. But I traveled for work in the new city over a hundred kilometers and kept on waiting without any success for a bumpy road – or even a patch like that. I was, honestly, feeling somewhat uneasy on the roads that were smooth and well marked. May be I deserve the bad roads that seems to be part of my life back in Karachi. I don’t know.
And finally, like an envious Karachite used to to live in a jungle of concrete, I was pleasantly struck by the greenery here and at the same time saddened by the lack of same back at home. But the even bigger surprise was a banner put up by the local Government that talked about planting more trees and associating it with the environment. I was duly impressed. The high rises residential apartments that dot every corner of Karachi without any fail were hard to spot in Lahore.
I must return back to Karachi tonight. I wish I had a magic copier of sorts that would let me copy – in full color, shape and form the good things I spotted here and paste that all back onto Karachi. But then, I am not sure if that sudden change would pose a health hazard to the fifteen million Karachiites who are used to of braving the inhuman behemoth Karachi has become.