Karachi Fountain

Posted: October 26, 2011 by sharmeenalikhan in Uncategorized

My blog today is the first paragraphs from the book I am attempting to write (and failing at it) and the fountain in the blog appears only in the last para. The reason I am putting it here in the blog for the Karacchiite is because the city serves as the inspiration for this book and my friend Shirin says this is perfectly acceptable and because the book is  based in Karachi. The time frame is the 80s. I am trying my best to avoid populating it with any overtly simplistic cultural reference points; other than Gen Zia and general sense of security and tolerance (despite G Z). There are no Walkmen in this. Karachi in the 80s was very different from  Karachiof the 2000’s. I used to come here for summer breaks from any cantonment my father happened to be posted. It was always (and perhaps remains) an epitome of modernity.

Here goes:

“On one of the hottest days of August, Saira Hafeez hunts out a blank notebook from her mother’s study table and starts her first and last story collection. The day smells strongly of fish and human waste; which is never uncommon in Karachi.In the previous one year, she has begun to experience lust and faithlessness in equal measures. Her moral confusion is immense. The object of her lust and love is older, shameless, an officer. He has taken full advantage of Saira’s moral weakness, indecisiveness and curiosity. In his hands, she has been a pendulum of easy virtue and hysteria. He would have been court-martialed because he had faked a medical report and has been on a long leave of absence from his Unit.Much later he will get off the hook on account of the plane crash. And people will briefly be occupied by things other than moral and petty crimes. But only briefly will Pakistan’s collective attention shift away from this.

To spare herself the agony of moral ambiguity, she will write these stories. In these she will likely find good characters; and bad. But Saira, naturally wants them to be clearly good; and clearly bad with no confusion. However, as all stories go, it will be impossible for Saira to control her characters’ choices. Her heroes and heroines will acquire independence, almost from the very conception. She will fight this. She wants complete control. But her characters will be ambivalent. Her characters will be free from her authorial binds. And you know what she will do. She will find the stories vile and deciding this, she will put on her dark glasses, take her bicycle, ride from her defense house to the sea view (because Karachi in the 80’s is golden) and she will throw what she will genuinely believe is her notebook into the sea where, unknown to Saira, a blue turtle has been living. The turtle will swallow what she has thrown and that will cause its instant death. This blue turtle, who would have been the last known member of its specie, would have gone on to give birth to three other turtles, two boys one girl. They would have, through copious amounts of incest, continued the blue turtle’s family for another fifty decades–but Saira, who is as ambivalent as her characters, will have prevented the depravity of this incest, but, would have done little to enhance the richness and diversity that makes up our world.”

I am making attempts totake the narrative further in the arena of moral ambiguity. There is an adulterous love affair, a military fellow; there are houses with an ancient oak tree in North Nazimabadbut where the air still manages to bring sea smells. I have written about 80,000 words sitting on a bar table that used to be in my apartment in Clifton Block 2. My apartment on the 8th floor used to overlook the sea. I could see the Karachi fountain; on most days this used to be shut. The Karachi fountain had cost the city hundreds of lacks of Rupees but malfunctiioned because, I hear, a fish got caught in the machinery. I believe that it got fixed but it was a repetitive problem. Every weekend, there used to be car rallies in front of it, by the beach. This city of lights would let nothing prevent its sense of life and fun. Not even a few fish.

  1. sarah says:

    can’t wait to read more! love your passion for karachi, its so rarely that people appreciate these aspects of what it was and still is! perhaps too late for me to ever embrace it, but you certainly make me feel like i missed out on something ..

  2. Behzad says:

    when will you come out with your book? i can’t wait to read it.. you certainly paint Karachi in a golden sunny nostalgic manner.. something we all can relate to at some point in our lives..

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