Friday, 17 July 2009

Karachi Konnection - خوش آمدید

I am in Karachi.

My Grandfathers – both of them – left their villages to make new lives with their families in Karachi. It's a story as much tied in with the Partition of India as it is with a common migration destination for many Pashtoon menfolk seeking work in t
he then-capital of a newly formed country. My maternal Grandfather spent time in Bombay, eventually settling in Karachi where he was a career coolie, my paternal Grandfather spent his time in the commercial navy in Calcutta and later Karachi.

I generally look back a generation or two – my better times in Pakistan as a child arriving for the first time were in the rural (mostly mountainous north) - Hazara and Swat where my immediate ancestory lies. I would later return to Swat as an adult to the very house where my maternal Grandfather was born and raised - the beauty of the valley is entrenched in my mind forever. I don't know if we will get an opportunity to travel this summer, but without doubt, it is this stronger sense of Pashto language and Pashtoon identity that defines me, and not the human soup identity that is increasingly prevalent in Karachi.

My father has often romanticised about the village, Malla Kalyan in Attock where his forefathers had their holding, but in truth, over the years, he has tended to go back less and less. He has invested more time in Karachi and tends to introduce himself as a Karachiite, firming up what I call our Karachi Konnection.

Slumdog Hundredaire

Karachi is the Sindh equivalent of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay of course and under the British was administered under an arrangement called the Bombay Presidency. Like Bombay/Mumbai, it is a city that has drawn in many layers of migrants – and is now a multiple layered society where communities jostle alongside one another, and occasionally break in rioting, turf wars and looting. Karachi is very complex – it remains a city that simmers with tension – on the ride home, I could almost sense it en route to my father's place in Shireen Jinnah Colony (named after the founder of Pakistan's sister). My wife pointed out the places in Clifton where she and our children were trapped during rioting that broke out a couple of years ago following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. There is something about the city that the residents here just accept as normal – from my eyes looking in from afar, there are obvious wrongs. The erratic electricity supply is one, but the thing that strikes is the slum-living conditions of many of the people here. Whilst very used to my middle-class trappings, it's humbling – I also have family in the more run down parts of town – and I have to be mindful. On the first night in town, I find myself sleeping on the floor in a corner of a room with no windows. This, dear readers, technically speaking, is home.

Khush Amdeed
خوش آمدید

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