For those who rave on about visiting the New Yorks and Londons of the world need to take a step back and start from home. I’m talking about the vast, populous financial hub of Pakistan that is Karachi.
From afar, Karachi seems like a nightmare; cheap police, rampant crime, and a fear of enjoying life. All that’s missing is Batman soaring across the night sky. To those who have seen it in the flesh and have the license to form educated opinions, Karachi is not as Orwellian as legend claims.
The dark skies are replaced by an ever-present sun that strikes down hapless civilians with its glare. Crime in Karachi has decreased in the last five years, and people spend their free time around town, enjoying the beach, the variety of restaurants and the many malls.
Having spent the past nine months of my life abroad for university, I came back to Lahore older, seasoned, though perhaps no wiser, and in dire need of home. For the first few weeks back, it was amazing. I was surrounded by familiar faces, people I grew up with and shared everything with. I was a drive away from all the restaurants I frequented and all the food I spent much of the previous year dreaming of. I could go back at night and sleep on a bed I spent all my life in under a roof I formed most of my memories in.
The notorious Lahori sun felt just right as it hit my skin with its ultraviolet beams. The leather interior of my car brought back memories of early morning drives and late night cruises that I had spent so many summers enjoying with no end in sight. I was in Lahore, the greatest city in the world, and nothing could compare to that feeling of belonging and bliss.
There’s a moment in time for some people when what feels so normal to them suddenly takes a U-turn and doesn’t feel the same anymore. It’s like a switch that is flipped almost overnight, although it is often a series of factors that causes it. Three weeks into my return, ‘my normal’ didn’t feel that way anymore. The food at my favourite restaurants stopped tasting as good as it used to, my bed was no longer the comfortable haven it once was, and the heat of the sun became unbearable. I grew tired of the same old comforts with the same people talking about the same things. If you spend so long away from your home base, it ceases to evoke the feeling that it used to. Being comfortable no longer feels as attractive as it used to; it’s not your normal anymore. And that’s okay, because it only means you’re growing out of that bubble you love being inside so much. I was still in the greatest city in the world, but I needed to escape it for a little while.
The traffic in Karachi is ungodly; epitomises the every-man-for-himself lifestyle, as there is as little patience in drivers here as there are functioning skyscrapers in Lahore. That is another feature in Karachi that I found very impressive. It is the only city in the country with an actual skyline, which is a very welcome sight.
The contrast between Lahoris and Karachiites is evident in the way that they function: We as Lahoris are relaxed, easygoing people who enjoy feeling comfortable in our skin. That also reflects in our work culture, which is for the most part, lazy and unmotivated. Karachi is almost the opposite in that regard. People push to get as much done in the limited time available in one business day. I personally enjoyed spending the day working and rewarding myself with some tea at one of the many chai outlets scattered around the city.
Regardless of the differences, Karachi is as much ours as Lahore is. Instead of highlighting our differences, we should celebrate our similarities. The most important one is our nationality. We are all Pakistani and we should be proud.