Stories about urban life

The horrors of life in Clifton

What is with elitist schools and colleges? Some like Karachi Grammar School (my alma mater and where my son now studies), get all the flak for not being good neighbours, for being elitist (the school’s fees are generally lower than most of its more recent upstart-ish ‘competitors’) and for bringing forth a whole new generation of brats (these people have obviously never met students or alums of L’ecole or Bayview). Now, to the point, for which this is being written. I happen to live close to a venerated Karachi education institution – the Convent of Jesus and Mary. In fact, ...

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Pakistan’s hungry children: The struggle to survive

On a recent visit to the house of my aunt’s friend this week, I realised the severity of helplessness some of us are subjected to as Pakistanis. Being a university teacher and living in a respectable neighbourhood, I assumed – rather took for granted – that my host lived a comfortable life like many of us do. However, what I witnessed in reality was far from my initial judgement. During the visit I couldn’t help but notice that her sons who had just returned from school would not eat lunch; rather they stayed away from the dining room completely. Her two daughters, ...

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I heart Karachi

I have lived in the United States on and off for almost 10 years. I have married an American man and love all the privileges, freedoms, and opportunities I enjoy in this country. Yet in all these years, I have never been able to call any place but Karachi my home. I moved to Karachi in 1991. It was a turbulent time for my city. The MQM was at war with the powers that be and the city was constantly on fire. Our weeks were haunted by strikes and many mornings started with a look at the Death File in ...

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The brute in me

Like every young gun in Pakistan who has recently graduated and started a job, I too have become a drone, hell-bent on acquiring as much wealth as possible. The indifference to every other value of life seemed outrageous and inhumane at first, but even that feeling has slowly ebbed away to an occasional rant.  There has been zero opposition to this life of comfortable nihility, until a peculiar incident occurred and brought my life to a standstill. I was driving to work one morning and had stopped at a traffic signal; the counter above read sixty agonizing seconds while a group ...

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We don’t like coffee, we like the idea of coffee

Between Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi, a new coffee place opens just about every week. From a marketing point of view, I find this to be fascinating. We’re generally a tea drinking nation. The caffeine that runs through our veins has been passed down though generations via a karak cup of tea. There is no Pak Coffee House. And yet, today we’re all gung-ho about the coffee, a tleast in the higher rungs of the social ladder. Places like MM Alam Road and Zamzama are littered with these little cafes. How come? I think it’s a triumph in product positioning. We like the idea of ...

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Boys want to have fun too

What comes to your mind when you think of Karachi? The magnificent sea , ever-glowing lights , loadshedding, paan gutka and for me – gender discrimination. Yup. life is so not fair for the unfair sex in the capital of Sindh. I would have never noticed such discrimination had I been living in Karachi with my family. It was only when I came back to the city to pursue higher studies that I perceived the stark discrimination. The practice here is that all the trendy hang outs, parks, recreational spots are restricted to families only. As harsh as it seems this would still ...

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Are you being robbed one rupee at a time?

As I asked for one rupee in change from the cashier a fellow customer on the next billing counter took a whole 180 degree turn and looked at me as if I was an insect. To add to my embarrassment the cashier rolled his eyes and took out a five rupee note and said “you can keep this instead.” He made me feel like a beggar for asking for my own money. Obviously, I did not keep it but amused and astonished I moved away. The next day I discussed the incident with my friends. Most of them seemed to have ...

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Auntysville

All of us know them. Whether it is a wedding, a funeral or a birthday party there they will be asking questions, making oh-so-helpful suggestions and gathering information to file away for future reference – aunties! It may start innocently enough. But don’t be fooled by their innocent questions – otherwise you may regret it. 6:05 by the chaat table Aunty Jan: Beta, how are doing? And how many rozas did you keep? Bobby: Just kept a few. I fell sick one week before Eid and missed a few. Aunty Jan: Oho! You must take care of your health. Get well soon. Say my salaam ...

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A Pakistan with no hope

A few days ago, for the second time in three years, I came face to face with Karachi’s violent alter ego. It was a pretty decent day with nice cloudy skies and more or less everything going my way, until I was told that we had to attend a wedding function in Gulistan-e-Jauhar. Now, I’m not saying I loathe the nonsensical rituals that govern a Pakistani wedding, no. It’s just that I’m not a big fan of leaving home an hour before midnight to go to a fancy dress show to fight over greasy biryani and lukewarm 7up.  Especially because ...

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Why I do not date in Pakistan

It was the first time I was visiting Karachi in my life as my family lives Ottawa. I had recently broken up with my girlfriend in Canada before coming to Pakistan, and when my cousins found out they insisted that I find a desi girl here since they are ‘sincere’ and ‘faithful.’ Despite my opposition and discomfort in ‘finding a girlfriend’ in an alien land, my cousin introduced me to a friend’s friend – Maheen*. My first interaction with this girl was through the cell phone, or text messages to be more precise. After this introduction, we didn’t talk till one fine day in ...

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