When you're a teen the pressure to feel a part of things, the urge to belong is very strong- everyone struggles to find themselves when they're in school. We form our sense of identity by borrowing parts of other people and creating a patch work soul made from all the puzzle pieces that didn't quite fit right.
Belonging can be hard when you don't have a place to call home - luckily for me, my formative years were spent in Pakistan yet when I moved to the UAE I was lost, so I took refuge in books and poetry but very soon I realized that paper doesn't make for a very good home - it is too flammable, drowns far too quickly.
Those were the days when my bones ached for home, lips craved the salty kiss of the Arabian Sea, days when my heart sung odes to the weeping waves and kaleidoscope skies. Those were the days when the poems flowed out of me and every word I wrote sounded like the distant whispering of the ocean.
So here it is; my eulogy for Karachi - inspired by Sarah Kay's 'The Oak Tree Speaks'
Do you know how many ways there are to die in this city?
1. The street food.
2. Mini bus drivers.
3. Exhaust fumes from rickshaws, taxis, cars, buses.
When I was a little girl Saturdays were reserved for halwa poori nashtas with my cousins, my uncle would drive us to the farthest point of the city and we’d sit on greasy tables, stray cats curled up at our feet, eating oily parathas and wiping our fingers on yesterday’s news - 10 dead in Kashmir, 20 killed in suicide bombing.
4. A stray dog.
5. The woman with outstretched palms and a persistent cough.
6. When the tide hits.
One Saturday morning – my last Saturday in Karachi – I watched as a beggar boy was pushed on to the road. The fistful of balloons that had been so carefully wrapped around his wrist rose to the sky. The boy was bleeding. I waited. He wept as he watched his dreams float into vastness. One by one. The balloons vanished. I am still waiting.
7. A controlling husband.
8. The man eyeing you from across the street.
9. A stray bullet.
10. An aimed bullet.
The people of Karachi talk like they are stepping on land mines – careful, cautious, calculated thoughts and perfectly constructed half- truths. The children of Karachi dance among mountains of garbage and rubble – bare feet and cracked soles, flying kameezes, soaring (illegal) kites and unfaltering gap-toothed smiles.
11. The wrong neighborhood.
12. The right neighborhood.
13. Being human.
We have grown accustomed to the melody of gunshots, the rhythm of bombs falling, learned to block out the heaving of a city taking its final breaths. Poor Karachi, they say – its home but I’d never dream of going back. Poor Karachi. All saltwater and crumbling buildings. All tireless smiles. A dying city, a blood stained spot on the map. How can you save a city that refuses to save itself? Poor Karachi. Soon there will be nothing left to mourn.