Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

Beef Bulgogi and Bar talk.

Posted: October 23, 2011 by sharmeenalikhan in Uncategorized

I moved to Karachi one week after 9/11 or 11/9 as we should really call it. With a masters of laws, a year in Brighton and three pairs of boots and not a single shalwar kameez, I was due to start working with the Law firm within a week. In this time, I had to set up my room, in my best friend’s apartment, buy a car, learn to manage driving on the Karachi roads, get me a working wardrobe.

For me, Karachi used to be a city of summer holidays. I had never lived here and was unprepared for its pace. I could not deal very well, with the number of plans and people that one could have in the course of the single day. We were in our mid 20’s, the three of us, sharing a very beat up apartment by the sea, and we had all the time in the world to meet, mingle and get to know other like minded individuals. The other two were from LUMS and had access to a whole layer of junior management of corporations on their speed dials. I was more isolated. I had not grown up in the city and did not deal very well with the early cliques, even the young lawyers managed to have because of the Grammar School or St. Mary’s connections. It was harder for me to penetrate their social circles and I really didn’t, until I began to date one of them. How I had met that young man was because the Inns of Bars in England had a workshop and that set the meeting ground.

So I had started dating him and through him, I finally met other younger lawyers. We used to get together for lunches. He would invite a few friends from his office, I would invite a colleague. We would go to the Korean. People would invite friends of friends. And so on a Friday afternoon, when most of the city took a long lunch break, a few young lawyers would meet at the Korean.

This Korean restaurant, located near the Schoen circle is the only place I know that serves beers, even during Ramadan. I know this may be removed by the reviewer here (Faisal) but it is what it is. It served beer and the most amazing sweet potato fritters with chilly chutney and the noodle beef soup with a half fried egg-which if memory serves me right was called Bulgogi. The restaurant has the spiciest Kimchi and a very well priced Sea food pancake. It is an unassuming place. It is nothing more, than a canteen really. But on any given Friday afternoon, it hosts a whole range of corporate types: with the suits, cigarettes beers, and all of the corporate secularity or perhaps pragmatism.

We spent hours and hours Friday after Friday drinking and eating and blowing our well earned Rs.15000 or even Rs. 20000 for some of us. We became a circle of young lawyers. I eventually went to a different firm; acquired more friends. Our circle expanded.

One day, I had decided to go there for dinner. I was shocked at the transformation I had seen between a Friday lunch and a Monday dinner. The waiters were the same; the pet dogs of the owner the same. The menu was the same. But it was eerie on how silent it was. It had an air of being positively creepy with its tube lights and shrimpy smell. I never really went there for dinner again; the excellence of food notwithstanding.

Our circle, as it were, became more aged. We became seniors. Some of us became partners in the law firms our fathers had started. Some of us moved to internal legal positions which paid better. Our clothes became more pressed. The Korean increased the prices by Rs. 20 on each item. The beers became more expensive. We got married. Divorced. Married again. We became incestuous in our legal community. Some of us started smoking. Some of us started going to Shapes regularly. We were no longer the first batch that year. Other new entrants came in to the legal community. The Korean remained constant. The lunches remained part of the scene.

I stayed in Karachi for ten years. The Korean was the only one that remained consistently good. It never once disappointed in its ability to serve contraband or excellent Kimchi. I know its owner had spent a month in Jail for this. One of my to do things in my next visit to Karachi is to go there for Lunch. My other is of course to go to Foot Comfort. Another best for Karachi; but maybe for another time.

Streets of Karachi

Posted: May 27, 2009 by herekary in Uncategorized

So across my house is a road on which there is a substantial amount of traffic on any given day. The road is interspersed with traffic signals. And as we all know, traffic signals are used to tell you when to stop and go. Well, there’s a particular signal which is up there which really doesn’t serve any purpose, other than flashing the red and the green light. It’s useless because there really isn’t a point in stopping for traffic that is joining the road from the right when you have enough lanes to keep going. But it’s there and useless or not, I stop for it.

Cars zoom by in the morning rush, speeding to get to work so as not to get a tardy by their name on the attendance register. Seeing that I’ve stopped and waiting for the signal to turn from red to green, a lot of other cars slow down while going by and some even stop. Yes, they stop when they could easily break the signal and continue their journey.

I’ve been on the road connecting Appleton to Chicago several times when I lived in Wisconsin. Many a times, it would be dusk by the time we set out. The highway uptil Milwaukee would be dark and all you could see were the headlights, trying to find their way in the dark. But along that desolate road (where you couldn’t even see cows), if there was a traffic signal, you would stop for it. You and everyone else would stop for it. Why? Because of the institution that the signal represents. There would be no cameras to record your license plate number and no hidden cop cars to chase you down. But people would respect the insitution of law and abide by it.

So as I thought about this and how other drivers reacted when I stopped, it got me thinking. Does it only take one to make a change? If I could do a minor thing such as stopping for the traffic signal, respecting the institution it represents, could my fellow Pakistanis look at me and have their conscience tell them that maybe they should respect it to? Could I look at someone else abiding by the law and feel a sense of guilt and do the same? It takes only one but add another and another and keep adding and the herd effect comes into play.

I remember when I first started college. I was walking down the quad and threw my gum wrapper on the ground. Oblivious. I did it in Pakistan all the time. A girl walking past me looked at me and smiled and ever so slightly with her eyes looked at the wrapper. A pang of guilt shot through me and with a gulp, I turned around and picked up the wrapper. I even apologized out loud but it was to thin air since she had already turned and left, but her slightest action had made me right my wrong.

I see people roll down their car windows and chuck out trash all the time on our streets. It could be the ash from a cigarette or a cigarette butt. It could be the bottle cap or the entire bottle of Coke. Heck, it could be an entire Happy Meal from McDonald’s which you don’t feel like eating (yes, I’ve seen and heard about those as well).

This is not only a local problem to us but it’s a “glocal” problem. One that affect us locally and affects other developing countries on a global scale.

So my point being that change is hard. But it’s necessary. And since someone from our midst will rule this country (please, for the sake of God, not BB-Z), we need to lead by example. And so if all of us start abiding by the law, it can be so much easier to make a better Pakistan. A law-abiding one. We can do this. Gather the herd and stomp and romp around bringing a change. Strength in numbers, power in unity and all that good stuff.

Above the Law

Posted: May 9, 2009 by herekary in life in karachi, Uncategorized

Are our parliamentarians really above the law? Their track record is deplorable. The country is in civil war and our so-called masters are roaming around breaking the law themselves. 

 

 

Is an MNA above the law?

Is an MNA above the law?

And does an Abu Dhabi license plate work in Karachi?

 

Does an Abu DHabi license plate work in Karachi?

Does an Abu DHabi license plate work in Karachi?

Karachi/Sydney

Posted: April 22, 2009 by Sanam Maher in Uncategorized

Krotchy Typo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krotchy Typo

 

 

'Pretty cars, Ugly politics'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first is a photo of a hospital down the road from my house – its not new and I’m sure a lot of you have seen it. It took the admins a while to fix the problem with the ‘a’, so it made me laugh almost every day. The second is a photo from a series from a trip I took to Sydney. Lots of graffiti. This one, I think, applies itself rather well to Karachi – ‘pretty cars, ugly politics’. 

SM

Karachi has a shortage of green these days and so it is a welcome sign that someone in the city administration has taken notice of this. The planting trees campaign has been launched in the S.I.T.E area of Karachi today.

However I think it would be more appropriate if the nazims of residential housing areas in this city take notice of this effort and launch similar campaign as there is more need for parks, entertainment options as well as family gathering places in our city.

If the government wants to charge the denizens of this metropolis more taxes in the shape of infrastructure and other amenities then they must provide them with some relief, this current effort is appreciated but more is needed to make this a lush green city.

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