Sunday, May 13, 2007

Karachi: Day 2

It has been a long while since I have posted on this blog, but if ever there was a time to write something, anything, this has to be it.

Is it overly melodramatic to state that Karachi bleeds when I can see blood stains on Shahrah-e-Faisal?

At this moment I am sitting in my office that is located on main Shahrah-e-Faisal, between the Kala Pul and Baloch Colony bridges. There are cars on the road and people walking about, having ventured out of their houses to carry on their lives as usual. It is rather surreal seeing the city return to normal as it has. The normalcy however, is superficial. Scratch the surface and there is a great deal of tension and fear. Amazingly the eerie silence has compounded the fear much more than the echoes of unremitting gunfire. Nobody is quite sure what will happen next, or where the next flare will be.

This fear for me is highlighted by two events.

One

As I write this, a friend of mine is traveling with her mother – two women, from Hyderabad to Karachi. They had gone on Friday and were meant to come yesterday, but obviously could not. In Hyderabad they sat all of yesterday, in front of a TV and watched Karachi burn. They could’ve come tomorrow or day after, but they simply can’t bear being away from Karachi. My friend’s mother has been physically sick watching the TV and just wants to return to her home, for being away, even though safer, remained much more frightful for them.

Two

My sister flew in from the US yesterday, she had no idea what was in store for her, she did notice that there was something wrong when the plane flew from Dubai earlier than scheduled, but almost completely empty. Throughout her journey nobody from the airline told her what was going on, and she landed in Karachi at 1 P.M. The Chief Justice had landed 15 minutes earlier.My parents and I left our house around 10, trying to go to the Airport. We had to turn away from the Korangi Expressway after people started coming wrong side, we did not try and see why they were doing that. Next we went off to Gizri to go to Clifton Bridge, we couldn’t get on to Gizri let alone Clifton Bridge. Kala Pul the next stop, beckoned. As we going we saw an increasing number of MQM flags, in cars and buses all around us, still we continued. No police anywhere. We reached the main Korangi Road, on the side lanes we could now see white flags, then right before Kala Pul starts, we saw a large group of people with white flags – they all read MMA. They had been ripping off the banners that the MQM had put the night before. With MQM all around us and MMA in front of us, we knew this was not going to end well, so we turned around speeding on the wrong side. This left us no choice but to head home.On the way I stopped at a bakery and bought some brownies and saw Expresso (a cafe) on Khy-e-Shahbaz doing roaring business – in Phase 5 it was business as usual!

It was not till 6 p.m. that my Parents, having heard that the roads were clear, headed to the Airport. My sister sat at the airport all this while, exhausted but rather lucid she decided in these few hours to become an Investment Banker and live in NYC – that’s one way of picking a career! My parents ran into some ruffians who were braking apart a jeep in front of FTC but nothing more. My mother though was mortified throughout the entire journey. She was afraid because there was no one, not a single car on the entire stretch of Sharah-e-Faisal from Kala Pul to the airport. She was much more afraid at this time than she was when she could see the MMA and MQM clashing.

I did not go to the Airport. I was shadowing my parents, as it were, in NB’s car. We went up from Baloch Colony, on to an empty Shahrah-e-faisal and reached FTC. By this time the jeep my parents had seen 5 minutes earlier had been overturned and was being burnt (NB post the picture). There were stones and glass everywhere. We retreated to Defense and had chai at CafĂ© Clifton.

I guess the point of this entire post, was not only to retell my experience of yesterday but to convey the sentiments of the city. The city is not back to normal nor is it simply recovering from its wounds. There are people on the roads, our and about, but it seems as though the entire city speaks in hushed whispers, awaiting something worse, soething more gruesome. This silence is mortifying. That is why my friend and her mother are about to cross Sohrab Goth and NIPA. That is why my mother could bear violent clashes and not the silence. Nobody can bear the silence that has enveloped Karachi, because nobody is quite sure as to what will follow next.

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Hi Ali, Fiona here. I read about what was happening in Karachi ,and I clicked onto this blog, hoping to hear that you and your family were ok. I'm glad to hear that you are...not sure what to say really, just that I'm glad your ok. I don't know enough about the situation to comment fully, but must be horrifying to have the familiar or at least the pretence of the familiar shattered by these events.
Keep safe and mind yourself-Fiona