Clifton Beach - A wrecked Oil tanker Karachi Nuclear Power Plant from French Beach (or Bulehjo)
Though I have known Karachi for three decade as well - I should say two decades since, I do have early memories from age 5 or so - it was even then (early 80's) a gentler city, less population, traffic, pollution. Defence was considered far from the city - where from Phase 5 down Khayaban-e-Shamsheer to Seaview it was more or less virgin land. Shamsheer was a single carriage road. New town (Guru Mandir) area was still a smart area - and now look at it, it is in bad shape - dilapidated pre-partition buildings situated immediately behind the Quid's mazar - is this how we honour the father of the Nation? Have we no respect for the man we owe our existence to - the man who against all odds fought for this land?
Then you could go out, sit at street side restaurants and enjoy a meal, a cup of tea or a coke. Now, though you can still go to street side eateries, you want feel like sitting for long - for one the pollution will get to you, the people after a while will get to you - not the people per say but the immense "jahalat" will get to you. The city seems to have lost its sense of self.
But then my early memories of Karachi were through the eyes of an innocent eyes of a boy - a boy who had high hopes for the city, for the country under the Zia dictatorship. An idealistic boy who new only Zia's Karachi, Zia's Pakistan - knew no better - other than what was told to him by his parents and parents friends. But that is mom and dad talking - how else would a boy think when unconsciously he is fed Zia's propaganda through radio and television?
The idealistic boy is still idealistic, however concealed from the world out of fear of being recognized and mocked at. The world is a harsh place, idealism has no place. A very shallow world indeed. Where ones weight is determined in gold - where ones word is attached to ones bank account, ones action is attached to ones worldly success - not to intellect or intellectual knowledge, or wisdom from the ages. Todays world, todays Karachi and Pakistan is about how GREEN is your pocket, how GREEN is your document - GREENER than the green passport, green as being pinkish-white as your GREEN-card or the GREEN-blue combo. It is a Karachi where you are not judged by character but by where in the world you reside and how much you make. Where questions like "you must be a multi-millionaire by now, since you work in the Silicon Valley" are common place.
That Karachi that idealistic 5 year old boy new - the Karachi which actually had a blue sky, the karachi where one could hear the the trees billowing in the gentle sea breeze unlike now where you can hear the bustling traffic of Gizri or Shamsheer from your lawn, the Karachi where if you stood from your porch some 15 miles miles away from the sea, you could see the Arabian Sea - and if lucky actually sea ships in the distance - or better perhaps whales on a clear cloudless day.
It was a sweet Karachi - a quite little town - yes a town, though big enough to be called a City, it felt like a town. With a small airport, and an observation deck where you could observe the activities on the tarmac - where security wasn't such a big issue, though 'tis was a military dictatorship - things seemed calmer and sweeter.
Karachi O' Karachi - Karachi the magnificent, Karachi the glorious what has happened to you. What happened to the charm of the 80's, though some may argue the charm was in the 60's - but who is to say what was charming - when was Karachi charming? There is no definitive answer to that question - it is a relative one that is time dependent - a function of age f(age) it is.
Copyright C. Abdulrahman Rafiq