Karachi, as was Then

imageSome discussion between various generations of Karachi people, led me to this blog. I feel it is our responsibility to tell the younger generation what we have lost through time, politics and modernity. So here is a list which by no means is exhaustive. Just what one could recall in a laundry list. It is a Generation X list and maybe a few items will not mentally connect with present day Millennials and Generation Z.

A) Karachi was safe. No guns, no hold ups, no drugs, no kidnapping. Very rarely we would hear of a shocking robbery (not dacoity, just plain sneaky theft).
B) Low level traffic. As kids and teen-agers we walked and used bicycles.
C) Adequate public transport. Trams (discontinued in 1975 😦 )
D) Sufficient water. Water came through the pipes, not tankers.
E) Hardly any tall buildings. HBL Plaza came up in 1970.
F) Quite a bit of greenery and parks. Lots of neem and jungle jalaybee trees.
G) Reasonably clean.
H) Hardly anyone sleeping on the footpath. And yes there were footpaths.
I) Very few stalls encroaching on the road. But many ethnic street markets.
J) No electric load shedding.
K) Shaadis were pretty much on time and fairly simple.
L) Traffic lights were obeyed. You had to take a driving test to obtain a license.
M) Lots of grounds or empty spaces to play cricket and hockey. We played hockey!
N) Gates were not closed and we could walk into each others houses.
O) We did not have to telephone before arriving at others houses.
P) Lifestyle was simple, cost of living low.
Q) Many roadside cafes, serving tea and coffee. Plenty of intellectuals.
R) The Anglo-Christians used to play music at Clifton beach most evenings.
S) Many night clubs, with international cabaret performers.
T) Great chana choor garam served, hot and fresh with lots of mirchi and lemon.
U) The pathan with the bakery sandooq, where every item was 2 annas (Paisa 12)
V) Cricket was played at the National Stadium all winter. First class and tests.
W) Drive-in cinema was a regular outing.
X) Donkey cart race occurred every weekend from Clifton to Saddar.
Y) The Victoria was common and a great outing.
Z) Outing spots; beaches, Playland, Aquarium, Zoo, Circus, many cinemas, libraries.

Some things which were missing then.

A) Variety of restaurants.
B) Malls.
C) Supermarkets.
D) Cell phones and e-networking.
E) Only one TV channel and that too black and white.
F) Little choice in consumer goods.
G) Biryani was not a mainstay and pilau was more prevalent.
H) No fast-food. Nearest specimen would be Bundu Khan.
I ) No mini buses
J) No outdoor signs (though we could be gong back to that soon)

Nostalgia colours ones lenses and makes the past of huge value to us Generation X. A more real and feeling world it seemed. Sadly change is a constant and the Now is vastly different. So, while one might be wistful, we live in todays reality. Nevertheless, if one was to pick somethings from the past, it would be some elements of safety, security and caring inserted back into our present. It would go a long-way to achieving serenity once again.

*picture from http://www.pakistan.web.pk

Advertisements

A Whiff of Air

imageMemories of a crabby individual, small grubby hands, dishevelled shirt and always ready to grab ones snacks. He was not very nice I think. All that in a rather stark environment; white school building, with some blue in it, and a ground with not a blade of grass on it.

I think it was hot, but then maybe it was not. As far back as memory can stretch to over 50 years, I know we played a lot and sweated; so it felt hot. Mind you, not that it mattered, as we had different engines inside and these could run the best part of 12 hours. The Tuck Shop – don’t know if it is still called that- was cheap and a paisa 50 coin was a king’s ransom. There were plenty of trees, but mostly neem and jungle jalaybee. Both seem to have gone out of fashion nowadays. One did not need to break the jungle jalaybee fruit either, as it fell down and could be picked up by us predators. Teachers and prefects were ‘sirs and miss’ and you had better obey them. Sigh!

These asides and digressions notwithstanding, getting to the main point. So here they were, part of memory, crabbiness and grubbiness all in one individual. But what to do, he was in the same class and also shared the same long double desk. As if this was not the outside of enough, he would accompany me at break-time and home-time. I don’t think I was forced to be friendly, but he was around and convenient and to be truthful, back then, I did not really think beyond the next hour or day, so really had no long term plans. Had I known i was setting the agenda for a school and life long relationship, I might have reconsidered.

As the years progressed, life became a bit more structured, and the simplistic thought processes stretched beyond hours to days, then weeks and even a full term. Still, he was around. The long desk had disappeared, we had desks in various places in the class, but old habits die hard and he was still around at breaks and home-time. That classed as strong friend. I remember him being bigger and beginning to develop a gross sense of humour. Very gross!

This then merged into teens, O levels, sports, A levels, personal ambitions, music and girls. Yes also not to forget, the cigarettes and cards. Of course now the net was far wider and many friends grouped together. But by now we were fast friends and shared together, compared notes, grew scruffy moustaches and side-burns and tried to look cool. Truth be told, in the world of that time without internet, we knew little and TV did not help. We were gauche individuals, who had a lot to learn and little refinement in us. Shudder!

So came school ending and finally we went our separate ways. One went to UK and the other to US. The last few months post A Levels were rumbustious. We were in anticipation of an adventure. Little did we know. The world turned out harder, tougher, and more real than anyone knew. It taught us lessons worth a lifetime.

Now, I am sitting across him. The hair is gone, weight some way heavier, prominent jowls, jaded look and health a huge question mark. The crabbiness is back, but even more so, there is a look of defeat. The intervening years have not been kind to my friend. He chose to live his life abroad and a good degree and a successful career seemed beckoning. Life intervened and decades of over indulgence later, this is now someone else. Is he even a friend anymore? Well there is shared history and nostalgia. But our thought processes are so different. Our belief’s are different and cares are different. There is just an eagerness to be curious about each other, maybe shades of some envy and a glut of sadness.

This life has passed by like a whiff of air, caressing as it went by. So we who started by sharing a desk and snacks everyday of our lives, spent a decade plus sharing all the days of school, we are now 12000 miles apart and probably a world and a lifetime apart. Sigh!

The picture is from dreamstime.com, a free picture site.

%d bloggers like this: