Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Every time Karachi bleeds, people scramble around looking for something to believe in. Once again, with almost 70 people dead in three days of violence, there are articles insisting that Karachi’s spirit, tolerance, pride and resilience will carry it through. Insisting that it will survive. Insisting that it will come out stronger.
I like to read hopeful pieces as much as the next person, but as much as I appreciate the feeling behind them, I’m getting tired of the sentimentalisation of Karachi and all its problems. People here aren’t resilient because of their fierce pride in their city. They’re resilient because they don’t have a choice. They are proud because they feel defensive about a part of the country whose problems are too often treated like they don’t belong to the rest of Pakistan. They are spirited because if you abuse and batter anybody’s home for long enough, they will eventually fight back. As for the tolerance-I don’t really see who can honestly call this city tolerant. It is tolerant of many things, but considering that most of the metropolis has been soaked crimson in ethnically-inspired killings, I wouldn’t ever call Karachi a place where we welcome outsiders with open arms.
There are beautiful things about this city, yes. Love for Karachi is love in spite of everything else. You will want to come home to Karachi simply because it is home, even though you know you won’t have electricity, running water or security at any given moment of the day. I’m beginning to wonder whether this is good enough anymore. Is it enough to be hopelessly, helplessly attached to a place while you watch it go up in flames? Do the people on the other side of the city, the ones whose children are being murdered and homes are being looted on an almost daily basis, feel this love? Or do they simply feel gut-wrenching, all-consuming grief?
Our sadness and our sentimentality will only take us so far. I say this as someone who has been sheltered on the “safe side” of this city. As someone who always maintained that the city will indeed bounce back. No, it won’t-I realize this now. It won’t bounce back, because it is too broken and too battered. Half of the city has been affected by the violence, while the other half have convinced themselves it is part and parcel of life in Karachi. The divide remains, between those who are hopeful and those who can’t afford to be. There is no great change coming unless the entire class structure-both literal and geographical, in this city-is altered. Until then, the best we can do is acknowledge how Karachiites who lost loved ones and protest on the streets every day are hurting-and acknowledge our privilege in not experiencing the same.  


Anonymous said...

sarah i LOVE this. you write the way i wish i wrote. sharing this. ghazal

s.e. said...

wow thank you :)

Sahar Husain said...

Hey. You don't know me but I'm quite a follower of your blog. :)
Your post is well written but as a Karachiite who is irrevocably bound to her city and its people, I just wanted to add that its true we belong to the privileged clique of the city, but we all live in the same uncertainty and the same violence. True, some people are way more affected by the destruction than us but at the end of the day, all we have is optimism to hold on to. The authorities really haven't done much to protect the citizens and in such circumstances, just to be able to believe in your city, to believe in its resilient and indomitable spirit and to be able to hope for the best is no small feat.
Just voicing my opinion. Great job with your blog btw! :)

s.e. said...

I know what you mean. I don't think people on the Clifton side of Kala Pull are removed from the violence. i was just voicing my frustration at what I perceive to be the romanticisation of Karachi. At this point, I personally feel like we need to acknowledge that these aren't random incidents of violence. Part of me also feels like as long as we soothe our frustration with optimism, we won't be stirred to make a difference.
Thanks for the feedback-I love comments! :)

Ovais Tariq said...

Yeah rite all of us need to voice our frustration,.

Opinionated Jaahil said...

This made me tear up, and it is so, so true what you've said about the divides in Karachi. I've encountered people who can't understand my unconditional love for it, and I've met people who love it more perhaps than even I do. But the problem is, when you love a place so much you can't hope for anything else except for the fact that it'll eventually bounce back because it's too munch to think of the consequences (which it's already facing anyway) that will occur if it doesn't.