Karachi’s traffic making you pull your hair out? Here are 10 tips to make your travelling experience less confusing

Published: February 11, 2018
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Pakistani commuters stuck in a traffic jam in Karachi on June 3, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

Anyone who has had the luxury of experiencing the traffic in Karachi, will understand when I say there is a certain wisdom hidden in the chaos on the streets. Ultimately, if you’re super agile and a glass-half-full kind of person, you can not only live through the road rage-driven manslaughter attempts, but also learn countless life lessons in the meantime.

When I was a young girl, my mom taught me to look in both directions before crossing a street. However, I would also always go outside with an adult, so there was never really the need to do the ‘looking’ on my own. One fine day, my parents decided I was finally old enough to take on the street, and I was sent out to fetch something from a shop just across the street. After an hour of my 12-year-old self not returning home from a trip that should’ve taken five minutes, a search party consisting of my brothers and cousins was sent out. They discovered me standing spellbound at the end of my own street, vigorously shaking my head from left to right like a crazy person, trying to catch a break from the oncoming traffic to cross the road.

This was my first true introduction to Karachi’s traffic, following which I have spent countless hours wondering how thin the line between reckless driving and attempted murder is. After a decade of making qualitative observations while also pulling my hair out, I finally have 10 tips which I firmly believe will make travelling in Karachi a less confusing experience.

1. Be unpredictable

Have your right indicator on? Spice things up by turning left! Or, if you’re feeling extra daring, leave the indicator on for a few miles before turning anywhere at all. It’s important to do whatever it takes to keep people guessing.

Photo: Giphy

2. Own the streets

Feel free to take a U-turn on a one-way bridge if you decide you don’t like the way it feels under you, or even if you simply feel like going the other way now.

Carpe diem! Live your life now; rules will be there tomorrow too.

Photo: Giphy

3. Seat belt? Pfft!

Wearing a seat belt shows you don’t have faith in God, and are dependent on manmade contraptions instead. So, don’t be a lil’ twerp and admit that the safar ki dua (pre-travel prayer) is all the protection you need on the road.

Photo: Giphy

4. Don’t follow the bright lights

Think of traffic signals more like suggestions – rather than existing for legal purposes – and don’t take them too seriously. Yes, it’s better if you come to a halt when the signal turns red, but it’s also okay if you don’t.

Photo: Giphy

We are an understanding people; we recognise your time is more important than other people’s lives.

5. Live every day like your last

Pedestrians, if you want to cross Shahrae Faisal, don’t waste your time finding a pedestrian bridge! Just recite Bismillah and cross the busy no-signal corridor while holding up your hand in a gesture that screams,

“Let me cross the road, or hit me and have my blood on your hands!”

Photo: Giphy

After all, YOLO (you only live once).

Photo: Giphy

6. Take a moment to reconnect

See a friend on the road? By all means, slow down, put your foot on their motorcycle affectionately, and have a yelling conversation for the next couple of kilometres, all while the traffic behind you drags on. After all, what’s the point of having a road, if not making it possible to have such heart-warming interactions?

Photo: Giphy

Photo: Giphy

7. Be like Triple’D aka Dare Devil Danish

If you are a cool guy, there is no better way to establish how ‘yo’ you are than doing wheelies in fast traffic lanes. Girls around you will immediately get excited and start shouting and pointing! Who cares if they’re shouting things like,

Manhoos, gir ke maray ga!”

(Idiot, you’ll fall and die!)

Photo: Giphy

8. *Beep* it

It is a scientifically verified fact that if not used regularly, machines will lose their functionality and become obsolete. Please do not let your car horn die from lack of usage! Ideally (as I have seen our drivers do), you should maintain a ratio of honking 10 times for every one time you apply the brakes.

Here’s an even simpler measure: If people around you are not looking at you with hate in their eyes, you aren’t honking enough.

Photo: Giphy

9. Learn to read between the ‘lanes’

Being in the right lane is your birth right. If everyone agrees that the colour of your skin shouldn’t determine your civil liberties, then why should the speed of your vehicle be allowed to determine what lane you drive in?

Fight the power! Overtake from the left, and slow down once you’re in the right-most lane. After all, the middle finger exists for a reason.

Photo: Giphy

10. If Google can be right, then so can you!

There is no such thing as going the “wrong way” – it’s all a creatively crafted lie the government feeds you. Whichever direction you want to take ‘is’ the right way.

Photo: Giphy

Little known fact: when you’re on a street and are confused about which way you want to go, you are on Schrödinger’s Street! It exists in all directions until you make up your mind and cross the road.

Photo: Giphy

And finally, do not forget that the only real person on the road with a family, life, dreams, and someplace to go is ‘you’. Everyone else is like a disposable character from Grand Theft Auto (GTA), just randomly strewn around to make things more interesting for you. In fact, just pretend you’re playing GTA V, and you’ll be all set to tackle the streets of Karachi head on.

Remember, the responsibility of putting the “suffer” in everyone else’s safar (travel) lies on your weak shoulders, so good luck, and may the force (not the traffic police force though) be with you!

Maryam Tajalli

Maryam Tajalli

The author is an aspiring writer, entry-level marketing strategist, professional breather, and the only researcher in the world calculating how big a teabag we need to turn the Pacific Ocean into tea. Born as a breach baby, she has successfully retained an upside-down filter to life in general. She tweets @letmemaryam (twitter.com/letmemaryam)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Najeeb A Khan

    Excellent. I enjoyed it. Keep it up.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Ha, ha…..you are an observant girl. …loved that.
    I have noticed a new technique being used on the Karachi roads ….. when someone drives down the wrong side of the road ( quite common feature ) because he’s too lazy to get on the right side…and you try to make eye contact to let him know he’s an idiot … he somehow manages to look every other way but at you.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Very funny ! Great ! More !Recommend

  • Sajjad

    Very funny, loved the colour of skin analogy. If you need any help with teabag research, let me know:)Recommend

  • Abdul Rehman

    Unfortunately these are not only come under sarcasm but an actual road condition these days.Recommend

  • Waqas

    Very good tips :)Recommend

  • Zohair Husain

    Satire and humor at its best…. Keep up the good work… and please let us all known when you finish your calculations about “How big a teabag is needed to turn the pacific into huge cup of tea….Recommend

  • Xahid

    Maybe the author is trying to be funny or maybe we are become fun for ourselves.
    its unfortunate the sarcastic resemblance of GTA 5 is good example for Karachi.Recommend

  • Hanif

    Had to be a lady to pen this kind of humorRecommend

  • Murtaza Ibrahim

    All graphics used in the article courtesy by literate and wise westerners. We are not alone in this safar.Recommend

  • Sane

    Traffic is a mess in Karachi, no rule, no law and no discipline. Like other govt. departments of Sindh. Traffic police itself violates traffic laws and support the violators. This can be witnessed by the way motorcyclists and commercial vehicles flouting traffic laws in presence of traffic police. Even private vehicles are the contributor to this mess. Breaking red signal has become a matter of joy and honor for most. Wrong side driving is a norm now. A continued and stern action is needed to correct this rampant traffic mess.Recommend