Karachi, You've Killed me (With the Cupid's Arrow) !!!!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

“All around us, Karachi kept moving.” 
― Kamila Shamsie, Kartography

This is dedicated to all my warm, welcoming and wonderful friends in Karachi. It is my humble way to thank them for their hospitality throughout my brief, yet memorable, stay in the beautiful Karachi. They all made my first ever visit to the country's former capital worthwhile.

Karachi is a congenial experience; this effervescent city can actually make all your blues melt away within seconds.
 The city has a reputation for a number of things and being a city of lights is one of them. It is a mecca for the wakeful and the sparky!!! It is a crash course in city life; giving you the real feel of the 'life in a big city'. 

When do these folks go to bed? Where do they extract all this amazing, unwearying energy from? Why do I see everything in 'zoomed-in' vision? Where is everyone heading to, what's the rush? Why and how can they totally mind their own business and not ogle around? How can people be so civilized as to not notice other people? Some things were really hard for me to register! But the city has the power to grow on you... as fast as the Jack's beanstalk! And before you even know, you are a Karachite on the move, without any sense of exhaustion, any desire to rest out, and with an over-brimming sense of energy that takes hold of you, liberates you and lets you explore the beautiful port city.

Nobody travels to Karachi in search of calmness and quietude – that's what Islamabad is for! Karachi, as they rightly say, 'never sleeps'. Try taking a short drive around at midnight and you’ll see that the atmosphere feels like a vibrant afternoon. Each of the KHI boroughs has its very own unique nightlife scene. However, there is one commonality; they are all astir and heaving with people at all times. Everyone is in a mad rush; the scene is totally happening - nothing is still, everyone and everything is in constant motion. These people probably wait to hit the beds at the break of dawn!

In a city with over 25 million people, space is understandably at a premium, so everywhere your eyes can reach, you see skyscrapers touching the sky. The very first thing I noticed about the city was the way everything looked bigger, taller, and wider - it's as if you've stepped into a different world with a 'blown up' vision. Something akin to Alice in the Wonderland – with Alice appearing smaller this time, way too small than she actually is!

The biggest difference and the biggest strength of the city lie in the diversity of its population. There is diversity of race, religion, ethnicity, lifestyle, social status, and financial class. So much so that there is even enough diversity to bear any fashion tastes. You'll see women clad in burqas (some very interesting colorful ones I had never spotted before in any other part of the country) and then there are women all dolled up in western. Karachites have their eyes tightly fixed to their sockets, unlike folks elsewhere! Nobody is watching, no eyes are popping out – so, feel free to openly use your unique sense of fashion! You can even walk out in PJs for breakfast – nobody would seriously give you the why-the-hell-are-you-out-in-your-PJs look!

These peeps ache for the outdoors - I think the concept of eating at home is quite alien to the Karachi folks and that explains my very dear friend’s behavior. I always wondered why eating in was such a 'compromise' for her, but now I know! Hence, the city caters to all tastes and budgets. The food is great, by the way! If you venture into the boroughs, you will find authentic continental and ethnic cuisines from many parts of the country and the world at large. I tried Japanese for the first time and fell completely in love with it!

The city’s architecture is unique in taste. You'll find old buildings and roads from the pre-partition era (the British colonial time) - they are a reminder of another time, of past events, of ancient craftsmanship, and of particular historical figures. As an observer, I noticed a romantic dimension to these structures from the past. For the same reason, I suppose, Karachites find old buildings and architecture very attractive and appealing. Perhaps, that is why you hardly see any modern contemporary designs. Most new buildings and structures have traditional architectural styles to give the feel of the antique and the ancient to blend with the overall theme of the city.

Being born in a land-locked city, the sea was certainly the highlight for me. When I first rested my eyes on the sea at the magical Kolachi restaurant - a wooden structure erected in the sea – I couldn’t help freaking out in excitement. It was a regenerating experience and I stood there motionless, staring in total awe.  How could a water body be so vast? I yelled to my friend 'Look at the sea!! Oh My God! Look at the sea!!' This was my brief and distant encounter with the sea. The major one happened when we took a boat ride the next day. As my friend had rightly warned me, it does take a little while for a first-timer to take it all in - I spent a few minutes looking at the huge expanse of water spreading into the horizon, before I realized it was all for real! 

The Arabian Sea stunned me with its incredible beauty - enchanted by the sight and the sound of those endless impetuous white-capped waves weltering as far as I could see under a piercingly bright summer sun,
 the big ships touching the clear blue sky and the cool breeze blowing across my skin and my hair (making my skin extra-moist and my hair frizzier than ever, but really who cares!), I was overwhelmed.

Like my friend says I haven’t even seen half of one of the world’s largest cities yet, so there will be a sequel to this (and to the trip). Don’t know when, but there will be one! 

Here is to Karachi - my super big love at first sight <3

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  1. Thank you for taking me to Karachi...it is indeed true that you havent lived until you have traveled... you are a true wordsmith... i totally like your writing..keep up the good job...

    1. Aww thank you so much :)
      I am glad I could show you Karachi through my words !! If you ever get a chance, do visit the city. You'll fall in love with it !!

  2. I've never heard of this place. Now, I'm off to Google it. Sounds amazing. "A city that never sleeps"- I love NYC for the same reason.

    1. Glad I intrigued you to learn about the city. I don't know if Google will be able to show you the true beauty of Karachi but trust me I have read things about NYC and I was able to relate to those during my visit to Karachi :)

  3. Nicely written. I have heard a lot of 'Look at the sea' being a coastal resident all my life. Reading the blog was like an imaginary tour

    1. Thank you, it's a huge compliment saying that reading the blog felt like an imaginary tour to you :) Yes, look at the sea, look at the sea - I will never forget that feeling !!!

  4. I love your style of writing! You really made me feel as if I were there! I will have to look into going here as ive never heard of it but yet it sounds fantastic!

    1. Thank you so much :) I'm flattered to hear my writing has that impact !
      And yes you must make a trip - it's an amazing city !!!

  5. Amna, I have not been to Karachi. But I tried to see Karachi from a nature lover's eyes such as yours. You talk of things that are built, and the city not sleeping. These are unnatural. Is Karachi far removed from nature except for that vast sea?

    Karachiites as people, an impression I get from their television interviews, are those that are at peace with themselves.

    You should write more about this city.

    1. I don't think so. I actually made a very short trip and unfortunately at the time of scorching heat of May, so couldn't move around to see the 'natural' part of the city. Besides, if I had to see and enjoy nature, I would have chosen to travel to the Northern areas. I wanted to see the 'Big City' - the metropolitan hub of our country.So my focus was on the city, the people, the unnatural :) And yes, Karachites are very progressive, always occupied in some activity - they sure are at peace with themselves.


Amna's Goodreads Bookshelf

To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Les Misérables
Eat, Pray, Love
The Poisonwood Bible
The Joy Luck Club
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Under the Tuscan Sun

Amna Tariq Shah's favorite books »