When I was twelve, I would tell people that when I grow up, I'm going to plant sunflowers all over Karachi. I thought of starting a campaign that would leave the streets clean and tree-lined, with flowers bursting out of every corner. I imagined I would do it, because I was sure of myself, sure that my plan would succeed. I imagined the idea would be embraced by all Karachiites, because who wouldn't want to look out their car windows and see the upturned faces of bright yellow flowers?
I dropped watermelon seeds into some dirt once, waiting for a plant to grow. It didn't. I put it down to my black thumbs, but looking back, it probably wasn't my thumbs, only my innocent desire to believe I had so much control over the unyielding patch of dry earth.
In Karachi, "sore eyes" takes on a whole new meaning. I feel as if my eyes are literally aching for a hint of beauty. I stare out my car window when I pass through Saddar and Old Clifton, trying to absorb the finer points of the architecture and old trees through the ugly structures surrounding them. Last time, I scanned the roads for a place, any place, where I could scatter a few seeds, in case I ever launch my plan of so many years ago. I couldn't find one that hadn't been trampled on by tar or cement.
The thought that there is no place for anything to grow makes me panic a little.
The thought that Karachi's soil has become hardened, hostile, disbelieving. An earth that questions why I would even want sunflowers.
I'm not someone who hungers for natural beauty or simply likes to see a lot of trees around. Trees would be lovely, but I would take anything at this point. I smiled a little when I saw that someone had installed pretty little lights along one road which happened to have electricity. Then I noticed all the lights were shaped like the Kaaba. There is nothing wrong with expressing your love for the Kaaba, but is a religious reminder the only reason anyone will do anything anymore? What happened to beauty for the sake of beauty, lights for the sake of lights?
Beauty might be low on the list of priorities for this city's residents, but I think a few flowers might do us all a lot of good.