First, harhtaal is an Urdu word which means general strike. Second, yesterday was a countrywide general strike called by a consortium of religious parties. I had the good / bad fortune of seeing the city up close during the harhtaal and I present before you the very same that I saw.

I am used to normal, working day, rush hour, everyone is out and about traffic on the more heavily traversed roads in the city. But, yesterday was different. It was a Saturday; there was a major Criket match between India and Pakistan going on; and there was the strike. The ingredients for the coming into being of a very uncommon scenario.

And then insanity took over me and my friends. We drove around in my car for about 180 kilometers all over the city; on the day of the strike.

At noon. Very light traffic; a random bus; a random rickshaw; a random
motorbike. Travelling at 100 kilometers after a car half a kilometer ahead and one following us at the same distance in places where on normal days we have five paralell lanes of bumper to bumper traffic moving at 20 kilometers.

The bazaars were closed. Lines upon lines of shutters. Eerie. Silent. Waiting. Hoping. So very scary and uncomfortable that we could not pass through Saddar and Golimar and Zebunnisa Street. It just seemed too foreign and depressing to be our city. But it was.

At nightfall. Heavy traffic; the motorcycles going in droves to seaview; cars filled to the brim going out on a Saturday; traffic; rush; pollution; the Karachi that I know.

Shops were opened. Closed doors were hurriedly opened. Commerce was continued. Hundreds of cars got parked infront of shopping centres as if people were desperate to make up for the lost time. Suddely life returned. As if a flatlined ECG had suddenly come to life.

To top it all off, we did not get any stones pelted on our car, or saw any burning tyres, or any burning vehicles or anything that might remind us of the madness that we used to see earlier on and learned to dread and hate and own and fear.

Maybe, just maybe, we have started to mature into civil beings.

2 Comments so far

  1. Anathema (unregistered) on April 4th, 2005 @ 12:35 am

    I m of the opinion that the trike succeded primarily becuase it was afterall a saturday, half day for quite a few, a day off from work for many, and an excuse to stay home to watch teh cricket match for the general masses. maybe that explains why the heartbeat reached normal around dusk.

  2. Shirazi (unregistered) on April 4th, 2005 @ 7:06 pm

    Thanks for this info!

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