You know you are in Karachi when.... (Letter from Karachi)
It feels like you are in Mumbai only. The tangy evening breeze kissing your skin and reminding you of the sea is just around the corner, traffic jams choking roads in peak hours and the bright sunny afternoons. But there is something about the Pakistani port city of Karachi, home to 13 million people, that makes it pleasantly memorable to an Indian.
It is almost impossible to escape the genuine smiles, lavish hospitality and infectious warmth of the people the moment you disclose you are Indian. The aftermath of this revelation unleashes a generous dose of hospitality - the nature doesn't matter; it could be an official stamp for a lasting cross-border friendship - if you too are keen to foster it - and a bumper prize to have home-cooked authentic meal for lunch or dinner. I had the privilege to enjoy all three.
You will forget western words of greetings like 'hello' and 'hi' once you are in Pakistan.
This cosmopolitan city, home to MNCs and a hub for employment opportunities, each year attracts people from different Pakistani cities and many foreign clients, but amid the multi-cultural boom, keeps positively alive the traditional greeting of "As-Salaam-Alaikum" - "Peace be into you".
Also the word "shukriya" or thank you.
From people meeting their friends or family, from guards at five-star hotel to a cycle rickshaw-wala --- all speak this common language.
The outside world has created a false image of Pakistan as one where women don't leave home without a burqa.
If this were true, I wouldn't have seen many young, dynamic women driving cars. It's a myth. In fact, Pakistan being an Islamic country, women are dressed elegantly in their long kameezes and palazzos, and quite a few young women in jeans with knee-length kurtas are commonly seen walking confidently on the road. The women might never wear a short skirt on the road, but she does wear elegance in her garb, and a smile on her face.
The amount of resilience the people of this city have is incredible. The hope for a better future and indomitable will not to give up ever allow them to chase their dreams. "We live in a bubble," said a friend. "Any little moment we get to celebrate, dance and be together with family and friends is cherished and lived forever," she added.
Last, but not the least.
Truck art on buses, and halwa-puri for breakfast unmistakably belong to Karachi.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 24-02-2014)