Posts Tagged ‘life in karachi’

I had been meaning to write for a while but you know, work, life, travels.

So, when I first came to Karachi, I used to share a flat in Clifton with an old friend and her new friend. It was terribly complicated. I had five years more than the new girl but they had been living together for two years. So I was defensive to begin with in the first few months. They (these two) had lots of other friends that I didn’t know (I knew no one in Karachi other than cousins and family friends with whom, initially, I was reluctant to share my laissez faire sensibilities) and they all used to live in the same building or around; they used to congregate every evening, playing Pictionary and I used to sit in the corner, wondering when I would be fired from my law firm since my boss wasn’t looking too impressed in early few weeks. I was missing the pubs, smokingup or doing anything that was not so bloody kosher. I mean we were all in our early 20s and without parental control but here were these men and women, failing to procreate or do anything fun.

They, the gang, as they liked to call themselves, were all imports from other parts of the country. All in Karachi to work for the MNCs and the other big set ups that made up the city. They had gone to big schools, had big ideas and all were on hunt to find the perfect mate to settle down. I used to dread coming home everyday to face their incredible drawing skills. They were very good people. I hope they remember me as fondly, as I remember them. But what struck me was that they would not engage with the city. They would order in from boat basin and hang inside and play. And I was going mad. So, in 2003, Karachi had the air of being very safe. No one I knew had been car jacked or robbed. The last murders of people I knew had taken place in 1986. I had just financed a KIA Pride. I was my own boss from 6 pm to 8 am and hence, to avoid coming home to the happening bonhomie, I started taking sneakers to work and would change into tracks and drive from work to Zamzama park, which was referred to as the General’s park . It was not as constructed and had an air of risk around it. I was harassed countless times . That didn’t bother me much. I am much tougher than I look. Occasionally, to alter the routine, I also went to Nisar Shaheed Park in Phase IV. That hasn’t changed much. It was not covered with stones and was smoother. I used to bump into my uncle a lot and we d talk about Musharaf, legal profession, pharma industry, Nihari. But soon the brisk walks or trots in these parks lost their charm. So, to make it more fun, I started going to sea view; I would park the car at one end (close to the Village restaurant) and run from one end to some distance along the beach. It was breathtaking. There were the camels, the popcorn walas, the early daters (it used to be still evening by Karachi standards, even past 7 30 pm and we are speaking of late autumn months) and I felt utterly free and safe and no one would give me a second look. I became friends with a flower kid. He’ d give me a rose every day.

One day, I got up early and went for a run around 6 AM. It was an utterly different scene that early, no cars, no camels, no kids. A police van was doing the rounds. It was the van and me. So I braced myself and did what I had to do. And got out of the car and started running. And very soon I saw that the van was trailing me slowly. I was on the beach but I could see that it was following me. It was one of the eerie pre dawn hours when, the KMC garbage pickers had not come out. There was nothing I could have done at the time. It was just me, and the sea that could have provided some protection. My car was parked on one end. I could not turn around because this Police van was with me through out. I can’t remember if McDonald was around at the time. I can still remember the horror of what I felt at those moments. I was trying to remember all the past crime reports that I had come across that week. I could not remember anything but knew there had been incidents. I wasn’t afraid of attack so much as I was afraid of being taken away for questioning. I didn’t have any identification and had told no one that I was out there. I was not carrying my phone and my parents with all their military connections were in Morocco. That was it. I was about to become a statistic; I am sure I was convinced of it at that time. I know kept running. But then, I remember, the van stopped and one police guy came out. He started hollering. And it was clear he was shouting at me. So I stopped turned and walked to him. He was your generic Karachi Police Cop. Moustache, paunch, red eyes. He asked me what I was doing there at this time? Asked to see my ID (I had none). Then he stared at me long and hard. I heard snickers from the van, (there was one more in the front and maybe one in the back). Then the police man started on the idiocy of people in Karachi. He spoke at length on how people like me were asking to be raped and killed and create all sorts of trouble for him and his brothers. He asked me if a fisher man had decided to attack me what could have I done (it was not appropriate to tell him then that the only threat, I faced was from him). Anyway, it went on and on and he asked me what I did. I told him I was a lawyer. He said he had a kid in A levels and that was it. That’s the end. He walked me back to the car and asked to see the car papers (and I had none of those either-I kept them in the office for some moronic reason). He gave me another lecture and went.

Soon afterwards, I discovered some mischief makers in my fraternity and that was the last time I got up before 6 AM. I no longer know where the two roommates are and how life has panned out for them. And  for the life of me, I can not remember a single name from the other members of the gang.

The End.

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One of the things I love about Karachi is its unusual quirks. Driving around defence the other day, I was tickled pink when I found that Sunday Bazaar has its own SIGNboard!!!!

It kind of reminds me of  a dusty sign pointing to a Saloon in the rambling wild wild west…

Its so utterly fascinating, that the flea market, bargain of all bargains, has its very own signboard, and is frequented by the elite of karachi! Fantastic stuff

Did you know there are over 300 companies that produce bottled water in Karachi.

water-wars

My uncle was telling me about his endeavour to enter the bottled water venture – indeed, a very interesting story.

He was doing his market research before getting in with both hands and kicking in production. He went to visit the site for commercial production. Asking around for where he could view some ongoing production, a man smirked and told him to visit a “Commercial Unit”. The man guided him to this unit which was incidentally rather close by.

My uncle walked in – and was FLABBERGASTED. He told us it was a 4 stage process. There were 30 odd empty 16/17 liter bottles on the floor, all with different brand names.

  1. A man, squatting, was filling each of these bottles with a measure of surf-water.
  2. Another man was taking the soapy bottles, swishing them around, and pouring the soap out – not caring about the soap left inside.
  3. A third man was taking a GARDEN hose and filling these bottles with water.
  4. In a connecting room, there stood a man surrounded by mountains of different coloured bottle caps – and he was forcing red, green, yellow, blue caps on.

Now my uncle was shocked – he thought to himself “there’s got to be more to this process!! This can’t possibly be it!!!”. He went up to the men and asked them – “So where does this water go?”. The men looked at him amusedly and said – “To people’s homes ofcourse. Where do you think it goes? What do we care!”. “What about all the soap left inside”, my uncle asked. “Oh, nothing happens, it dissolves”.

My uncle couldn’t stomach the idea of chunks of soap floating in the water and people drinking it, and paying Rs. 85 per bottle for HOSE water! So he whipped out his cellphone and called up one of the numbers on one of the bottles. A man answered, and when my uncle asked where their plant was located, he said, “Oh we have a very advanced, very sophisticated plant where we produce our water.”. And my uncle scoffed and said ” Yeah, dude, I’m standing in it RIGHT NOW!”

Be careful of what you drink guys – please!