Karachi

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
About Karachi city and the inspiration it gave to one girl.

Submitted: July 02, 2015

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Submitted: July 02, 2015

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Karachi

By Samreen Razi

It stood there shimmering in the sunlight, reflecting light in all directions, making the room more vibrant, more bright. I walked towards it; I came closer, sunlight fell on my face. It was covering an entire wall. This glass window was huge, yet what lay before it was bigger, larger------a huge maze -----a maze of life-----busy life----rushing life.

“Fatima I am leaving for work, will be back in the evening.” Murtaza’s voice entered my ears flouting my thoughts. I turned back to look at him. “ Keep the door closed while I am gone and don’t open doors to strangers.”He said and left. I stared at the closed door, struggling to assimilate his words. Not only words, I was struggling to assimilate all that was there in the surrounding since a long time.

“So tell me?”More words echoed in my mind just then. “ How is life? And how’s Karachi?” Cousin Ayesha had asked excitedly on phone one day. But somehow I couldn’t answer. How can you answer something that you yourself don’t know? It seemed answers suddenly abandoned me and only questions remained, engulfing my being. Being born and raised in a middle class family in Lahore, my simple and straight routine life altered almost overnight one day. I came home from GC University, Lahore where I was doing Bachelors in History to find out that my marriage had been fixed with Murtaza, a young but successful businessman from a respectable well-established family in Karachi. And at the age of 20, I left my studies to get married to him who after nikah brought me with him from Lahore to Karachi.

“Fatima you think your family doesn’t know what’s best for you?”, Amma had asked astounded as I questioned her few days before nikah.

I was quiet. I couldn’t utter a word. Not that I doubted my family’s choice, ofcourse they were my family they will decide the best for me. I also did not have anything against marriage, arrange marriage or even an early marriage for that matter, it all had worked quite well in many cases. And even though I understood very well that one cannot anticipate their future after getting married and marriage is just a part of life not complete life, yet, it can give many pertinent shapes to life. I knew all this then what was it that was plaguing me?

It hit me then. It was “Karachi”. Chaotic and lawless, secular, utterly volatile urban mass, the city by the sea had lots of names and I had seen, heard and read them all on media. I always wanted to ask Karachiwalay how they manage to live there? With broken, filthy roads, colossal traffic jams, clinging rotting stench of trash to add to the paradox? But this was Karachi------my new home, my new life. And was the girl who never had the courage to stay away from home never mind manage alone set to begin her new life so far away? Especially in an undecipherable place like Karachi? Once again words had abandoned me.

“I want to get familiar “, I told Murtaza at dinner table one night while we ate dinner

“Familiar with what? ” he asked quizzical.

“ Familiar with this city.  It’s been six months since we came here yet the only places I have been are your parents’ and relatives’ homes. I want to explore the place where I have to live perhaps for the rest of my life, I want to know, I want to belong. Can you take me to the beach I still haven’t seen, tomorrow is Sunday??”, I continued hopefully. “Maybe I can also start my studies where I left off. Can you tell me some good educational institutions here?”

Murtaza stopped eating and crossed his arms infront, “Do know you it’s not safe to venture out in this city or are you playing naive?” He said in a high voice.

“No I am not naive I know it’s not safe….” I tried replying in a weak voice not meeting his eyes.

” And I am not free for your nonsense ideas.” He interrupted. “I don’t understand why you need to study when it’s not needed?  Just stay home and take care of the household.” he continued. He left the table and picked up a book on sales from the bookshelf leaving for reading room. I looked down at my half eaten dinner plate. Silence prevailed, a silence so strong it was defeaning.

“Why you haven’t still been anywhere?” Ayesha asked astounded as she talked to me on phone a few days later. “ Is everything Ok?” she continued.

“ Ofcourse.” I replied. “Murtaza is a nice guy. I am comfortable. He gives me everything and cares for me.” I continued “It’s just that life is so fast here, everyone seems to be busy even Murtaza, he leaves in the morning and comes back late at night then retires to his reading even his parents are busy living separately. I want to get the taste of life here but Murtaza says it’s not safe.”

I talked some more then put down the phone. A deep sense of yearning hit me suddenly; I just want to understand I said under my breath as I saw that huge glass window that stared out at Karachi.

“So finally have you adjusted to your new home?” Rehana, my next door neighbour a friendly lady of 51 years of age asked smiling one day.

“ No and I don’t think I ever will.” I replied. My bitterness visible in my tone, although, I tried my best to hide it.

She stared at me for a second or two. It seemed she had noticed my tone. “ Here try this pudding I just prepared, it’s fresh.” Then said seriously in a soft voice, “Beta when it rains you have to decide to either stand on the withered sodden path or to walk”

I looked at her “But you can’t walk alone especially in a strange daunting place? Can you?” I asked.

“ But you also can’t always have someone to walk with. Then what do you do? Stand afraid and get drenched? Besides, who knows? Once you start walking it might not be as bad as you assumed it to be and you might reach a place where the skies are clear and not gray. Now dear I have some work to do. Try the pudding and tell me how it is later.” she said and left. I kept staring at her as she left. I pondered on her words.

“I am resuming my studies.” I told Murtaza at dinner after two days. He stopped eating and stared at me as if I had sprouted horns.

I continued “I know you told me there’s no need for studying. But there’s a need because I want to complete my studies. Firstly I didn’t know how. Then I asked Najma, you know the daughter of Rehana aunty, our neighbour? She told me about this old but reputed college three blocks away from here, she herself had completed her Bachelor of Arts from there, I visited that college this morning.”

“Are you out of your mind?” Murtaza asked.

“At first I was very scared going alone remembering all the crime scenes I have watched on TV and also considering the fact that I had never managed to go out alone and do anything on my own back in Lahore”, I said “There was huge traffic and a huge crowd on roads adding to my fear but the college was not that far so I decided to walk. I asked for directions from the people on my way reluctantly, but surprisingly nobody misguided. They cooperated and even showed respect calling me sister, madam. I finally found the college. I talked to the admission section, they were professional in their dealing and luckily the admissions are open at the moment.”

“Did you tell your family about this?” Murtaza asked angrily

“I talked to amma about it on phone she doesn’t have any issues. I will be back by 2 in the afternoon. Classes are from 8-1 pm daily. Trust me it will not disturb my household life.” I replied

‘ What nonsense! I told you it’s not safe…” Murtaza tried saying

“ It’s not that bad either.” I interrupted him. “You have also been living here in this city since birth right? You Karachiwalay are still managing in the same uncertain conditions?” I continued, “ And one more thing I plan to go to the beach this week. I will ask Najma to go with me if she can’t then I will manage to go alone. You don’t have to disturb your routine for me.” I said matter-of-factly, I looked him in the eyes, my stare unflinching, then I looked down at my dinner plate and started finishing the rice, calmly.

I could feel his eyes on me as I ate. He remained silent; he kept staring, after a long and uncomfortable pause that seemed like eternity, he finally said, “You don’t have to go with anyone else or alone I will go with you.” He finished his dinner then got up and left for his usual reading.

I saw him leaving then I got up and came to the big glass window.  I looked out at the rush, at the city that never sleeps. One could never understand standing on the surface, one had to dive to realize, I thought. The wonder that is Karachi as a whole and how it worked despite its conditions finally making sense. Laurent Grant’s “Karachi: Ordered disorder and the struggle for the city” I read earlier finally making sense.

At last, had a lot to tell Ayesha, a light smile touched my lips at the thought. Perhaps I still couldn’t tell what Karachi was? But it did stand out as walking on its two feet in the face of gale looking it bravely in the eyes. Perhaps I couldn’t walk as yet but it did show me to stand firmly on my own feet. A time might come when I might walk as strongly and independently facing what come may. A time might come when I will teach and enlighten other’s path just as I was shown the way not in the 20 years of my life but in a few months in this unusual place.

 I looked at the radiant lights. The glowing, lustrous lights in the city of lights stared at me. I smiled and stared back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karachi

By Samreen Razi

It stood there shimmering in the sunlight, reflecting light in all directions, making the room more vibrant, more bright. I walked towards it; I came closer, sunlight fell on my face. It was covering an entire wall. This glass window was huge, yet what lay before it was bigger, larger------a huge maze -----a maze of life-----busy life----rushing life.

“Fatima I am leaving for work, will be back in the evening.” Murtaza’s voice entered my ears flouting my thoughts. I turned back to look at him. “ Keep the door closed while I am gone and don’t open doors to strangers.”He said and left. I stared at the closed door, struggling to assimilate his words. Not only words, I was struggling to assimilate all that was there in the surrounding since a long time.

“So tell me?”More words echoed in my mind just then. “ How is life? And how’s Karachi?” Cousin Ayesha had asked excitedly on phone one day. But somehow I couldn’t answer. How can you answer something that you yourself don’t know? It seemed answers suddenly abandoned me and only questions remained, engulfing my being. Being born and raised in a middle class family in Lahore, my simple and straight routine life altered almost overnight one day. I came home from GC University, Lahore where I was doing Bachelors in History to find out that my marriage had been fixed with Murtaza, a young but successful businessman from a respectable well-established family in Karachi. And at the age of 20, I left my studies to get married to him who after nikah brought me with him from Lahore to Karachi.

“Fatima you think your family doesn’t know what’s best for you?”, Amma had asked astounded as I questioned her few days before nikah.

I was quiet. I couldn’t utter a word. Not that I doubted my family’s choice, ofcourse they were my family they will decide the best for me. I also did not have anything against marriage, arrange marriage or even an early marriage for that matter, it all had worked quite well in many cases. And even though I understood very well that one cannot anticipate their future after getting married and marriage is just a part of life not complete life, yet, it can give many pertinent shapes to life. I knew all this then what was it that was plaguing me?

It hit me then. It was “Karachi”. Chaotic and lawless, secular, utterly volatile urban mass, the city by the sea had lots of names and I had seen, heard and read them all on media. I always wanted to ask Karachiwalay how they manage to live there? With broken, filthy roads, colossal traffic jams, clinging rotting stench of trash to add to the paradox? But this was Karachi------my new home, my new life. And was the girl who never had the courage to stay away from home never mind manage alone set to begin her new life so far away? Especially in an undecipherable place like Karachi? Once again words had abandoned me.

“I want to get familiar “, I told Murtaza at dinner table one night while we ate dinner

“Familiar with what? ” he asked quizzical.

“ Familiar with this city.  It’s been six months since we came here yet the only places I have been are your parents’ and relatives’ homes. I want to explore the place where I have to live perhaps for the rest of my life, I want to know, I want to belong. Can you take me to the beach I still haven’t seen, tomorrow is Sunday??”, I continued hopefully. “Maybe I can also start my studies where I left off. Can you tell me some good educational institutions here?”

Murtaza stopped eating and crossed his arms infront, “Do know you it’s not safe to venture out in this city or are you playing naive?” He said in a high voice.

“No I am not naive I know it’s not safe….” I tried replying in a weak voice not meeting his eyes.

” And I am not free for your nonsense ideas.” He interrupted. “I don’t understand why you need to study when it’s not needed?  Just stay home and take care of the household.” he continued. He left the table and picked up a book on sales from the bookshelf leaving for reading room. I looked down at my half eaten dinner plate. Silence prevailed, a silence so strong it was defeaning.

“Why you haven’t still been anywhere?” Ayesha asked astounded as she talked to me on phone a few days later. “ Is everything Ok?” she continued.

“ Ofcourse.” I replied. “Murtaza is a nice guy. I am comfortable. He gives me everything and cares for me.” I continued “It’s just that life is so fast here, everyone seems to be busy even Murtaza, he leaves in the morning and comes back late at night then retires to his reading even his parents are busy living separately. I want to get the taste of life here but Murtaza says it’s not safe.”

I talked some more then put down the phone. A deep sense of yearning hit me suddenly; I just want to understand I said under my breath as I saw that huge glass window that stared out at Karachi.

“So finally have you adjusted to your new home?” Rehana, my next door neighbour a friendly lady of 51 years of age asked smiling one day.

“ No and I don’t think I ever will.” I replied. My bitterness visible in my tone, although, I tried my best to hide it.

She stared at me for a second or two. It seemed she had noticed my tone. “ Here try this pudding I just prepared, it’s fresh.” Then said seriously in a soft voice, “Beta when it rains you have to decide to either stand on the withered sodden path or to walk”

I looked at her “But you can’t walk alone especially in a strange daunting place? Can you?” I asked.

“ But you also can’t always have someone to walk with. Then what do you do? Stand afraid and get drenched? Besides, who knows? Once you start walking it might not be as bad as you assumed it to be and you might reach a place where the skies are clear and not gray. Now dear I have some work to do. Try the pudding and tell me how it is later.” she said and left. I kept staring at her as she left. I pondered on her words.

“I am resuming my studies.” I told Murtaza at dinner after two days. He stopped eating and stared at me as if I had sprouted horns.

I continued “I know you told me there’s no need for studying. But there’s a need because I want to complete my studies. Firstly I didn’t know how. Then I asked Najma, you know the daughter of Rehana aunty, our neighbour? She told me about this old but reputed college three blocks away from here, she herself had completed her Bachelor of Arts from there, I visited that college this morning.”

“Are you out of your mind?” Murtaza asked.

“At first I was very scared going alone remembering all the crime scenes I have watched on TV and also considering the fact that I had never managed to go out alone and do anything on my own back in Lahore”, I said “There was huge traffic and a huge crowd on roads adding to my fear but the college was not that far so I decided to walk. I asked for directions from the people on my way reluctantly, but surprisingly nobody misguided. They cooperated and even showed respect calling me sister, madam. I finally found the college. I talked to the admission section, they were professional in their dealing and luckily the admissions are open at the moment.”

“Did you tell your family about this?” Murtaza asked angrily

“I talked to amma about it on phone she doesn’t have any issues. I will be back by 2 in the afternoon. Classes are from 8-1 pm daily. Trust me it will not disturb my household life.” I replied

‘ What nonsense! I told you it’s not safe…” Murtaza tried saying

“ It’s not that bad either.” I interrupted him. “You have also been living here in this city since birth right? You Karachiwalay are still managing in the same uncertain conditions?” I continued, “ And one more thing I plan to go to the beach this week. I will ask Najma to go with me if she can’t then I will manage to go alone. You don’t have to disturb your routine for me.” I said matter-of-factly, I looked him in the eyes, my stare unflinching, then I looked down at my dinner plate and started finishing the rice, calmly.

I could feel his eyes on me as I ate. He remained silent; he kept staring, after a long and uncomfortable pause that seemed like eternity, he finally said, “You don’t have to go with anyone else or alone I will go with you.” He finished his dinner then got up and left for his usual reading.

I saw him leaving then I got up and came to the big glass window.  I looked out at the rush, at the city that never sleeps. One could never understand standing on the surface, one had to dive to realize, I thought. The wonder that is Karachi as a whole and how it worked despite its conditions finally making sense. Laurent Grant’s “Karachi: Ordered disorder and the struggle for the city” I read earlier finally making sense.

At last, had a lot to tell Ayesha, a light smile touched my lips at the thought. Perhaps I still couldn’t tell what Karachi was? But it did stand out as walking on its two feet in the face of gale looking it bravely in the eyes. Perhaps I couldn’t walk as yet but it did show me to stand firmly on my own feet. A time might come when I might walk as strongly and independently facing what come may. A time might come when I will teach and enlighten other’s path just as I was shown the way not in the 20 years of my life but in a few months in this unusual place.

 I looked at the radiant lights. The glowing, lustrous lights in the city of lights stared at me. I smiled and stared back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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