Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The bar called Karachi

Like every end of the concert, she asked me to drive to the bar. I don't like it, but I can't deny that I am myself addictive to the environment. It is not just the wine, the dance, or all the crashing that we do back in the bar, it is also the fact that I have always gone there since I got to the law-bound age of entering bars. It is like my home when I think of celebrating life, in its entirety.

It was the same like always. We entered there, got drunk, and enjoyed. Lisa, the bartender, looked a bit weaker and older but was as fresh as ever in cursing everyone! She served, and served, and served till we were heap! Mumbling in between, "my Danny would have gone to the Ivy league, unlike you freaking beer-drinking monsters!". Garry told Danny was killed when a fight broke out between the "Hoof-gang" and the "Volts", the stupid youth gangs which kinda rule this downtown bar. Dan was serving when the fight broke out, and he was just trying to keep the bar from getting broken, but he got cut and hit badly in the head and died right there. We drank to his name - that shot was free from Lisa! Garry said, heck! We wished you had more sons to be killed - we would drink more on their names! Lisa continued her outrageous cussing upon him. Guess she was crying, don't really remember, we were too drunk and enjoying the music! It was fun!

Originally conceived as a family restaurant, it ended up being a bar, initially it only used to be a modern downtown bar, but somehow turned too dark. And that's what we all love about it! Heck we love the darkness! All the gangs, all the dirty money, the wine, the morphine, hashish, you name it and you get it there! Heaven! The fact that white and black all go together there adds up to the richness of the bar! They get people down and dead every other day - but the bar never lets anything make it fall apart - it continues its lavish servings! That's the beauty of it!

Noah, Eve, and Stephanie, God knows where they are! Guess in some old home, or maybe dead, they don't show up serving anymore. Anyway, doesn't matter as long the wine is served, and the bar is open! We love crashing here, it is Love! Beauty! As an acquaintance once said about it, "the constant back and forth between good and bad, cheerful and gloomy is what makes it what it is: my love!"

And we left the bar at the end. Not really counting how many die there - and why they die - and who kills, and who sells these drugs there - what happens of the bartenders, and in fact what happens of the sane waiters of this once a family-restaurant-turned-bar because of God knows what reasons - ignoring the smell of blood on the tables - liking the red color on the walls without pondering that it is actually red due to blood - just forcing oblivion upon our consciously unconscious minds - as we don't deal with all this, not for us to think anyway!

Don't know why, and what it meant, but they called it "Karachi".

The story is a fiction, and an anecdote to the present day Karachi. English characters were used because such Western modernity and industrial culture is settling in. The bartenders and the daily visitors/gangs represent the inhabitants of the city, and the occasional visitors are people like us, the expats, who keep sending "love" messages for the city, such as; "Karachi is Love!".

People are good everywhere generally, and yes, Karachi has wonderful, hardworking, loving, and serving people - but that's not what is focused here - what is necessarily focused is the gruesome nature the city has adopted.

Image of the famous fountain at Karachi's Sea View beach, altered by myself to show the red of the blood. No copyright infringement intended.

Update 13th March 2013:
Parveen Rehman, the architect, and director Orangi Pilot Project, was killed today. I dedicate this to her, and many more of her types. RIP, Karachi.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This is my home, this is my family...

"This is my home, this is my family and we had a family trust setup and I thought I will come back and do something better than your normal 9 to 5 job that I had for many years, very comfortable, very fun. I wouldn't say I am rotting. These are my people and these are my friends and their kids so more than just returning the favour," said Sabbah.

I live the typical life of an expatriate, a patriot but an expat. And, I reluctantly admit that like the majority out there, I am one confused expatriate. I want to go back to my homeland in a few years time, though the plans are getting affected due to the situation back home - but then the thought of other people (friends and family) existing back there hits me, that I am no special.

Anyway. The point is that reading the above lines by a family which went back to their homeland to serve their family rose some interesting thoughts inside me. The fact that I hail from a cosmopolitan, I was given the opportunity to know and mingle with people from a variety of contrasting backgrounds. From the majority Muslims to the minority Christians and Hindus and even the vanishing Zoroastrians/Parsis. And then if we go by castes, there are these eloquent Lucknawis, loving Beharis, expressive Punjabis, disciplined Gujratis (Bohras/Khojas), the fearless and strong hearted Pathans/Pushtoons, the sweet and mannered Hazaras/Baltis, the arts-rich Sindhis, and the list goes on! One gets a plethora of different customs and traditions to get to know and experience. where there is goodness in experiencing this vastness, there is a drawback as well. I am unable to relate to some specific part as my family, the way Sabbah Haji relates to in the lines above.

On one hand, I claim to be a soul which is unable to cling to certain specific ethnicity, that is, I love East and feel connected to it, but the way I perceive and want to exercise freedom, it makes me feel from to be the contemporary west. But, on the other hand, when I try to specify some group of people as my family, I sometimes end up being someone from Sheikhpura, Bihar which is in India - where my parents were born and where my extended family is from! Now this sounds totally strange, especially considering that my parents migrated more than 20 years before I was born, and that I only have been to India once, but I find that as the family which I can say is "my family, my people". Having been to India once when I was kid, I do realize that the group of people I am refering to are now disappearing - the last generation is slowly and gradually ending up - and the new generation are definitely different from the previous in their own way.
Now, when I try to focus and stay in Karachi within the realms of my mind, I find myself totally lost. I have had the typical middle-class, Nazimabad/North Nazimabad/North Karachi friends with migrant parents (Mohajirs) hailing from U.P. and Bihar provinces, I relate to them, of course, but then as I grew up and went to the university - I made more friends - Punjabis, Pathans, and Sindhis. All wonderful people. But, no one to connect with deeply - it is a vast sea where one loses his originality.

But, since Karachi is still the most I can refer to from where I am, I think about people like Ardeshir Cowasjee/Arif Hasan and their types, the stellar Karachiites who, though in their old age, are still fighting the evil and destructive forces within Karachi, to keep it sane, and the new breed like those of Muhammad Abdullah, founder of Karachi Tips, and they give me a sense of belonging to Karachi.

It is vast, and you have to have a big heart to relate to everything within Karachi and keep it as your family, the way Sabbah Haji said it for her homeland.

This is my home, this is my family. This is the place which has taught me everything about the vastness of this world. I have met world-class thinkers, the most loving chai-walas, some great scholars, the most simplest of people, poor and rich, happy and sad, and a lot more!

This is Gold, which sometimes falls into mud and doesn't glitter. Sometimes is a-lot-of-times lately, unfortunately.

Link for the story of Sabbah Haji's family here