Friday, July 8, 2011
Last night at 4 am, my daughter held her ear and cried for two hours. I tried everything - Q tips, Dimetapp, warm presses, vapor rub, cuddles, debating the emergency room. Finally she slept, and so did I. My 3 year old woke up and heard us talking. He said, "You will go with her to the doctors, and leave me alone." His voice was big - deep and funny in his sleepy state. I assured him that he would be coming too; but I really did not want to race to a hospital in the pre-light hours of the morning with two babies while feeling sick and feverish myself. I could take Sharif, but he's so dainty. I took her to the clinic today, and the waiting area had some sick people and relatives whose eyes were glued to the TV screen. A man was being shot.
The city lost 60 or more people in the last two days in sectarian violence. One was a six year old girl. Thirteen were commuters on the W25, 1D and Mashallah coach. Three were shot in front of Makki Masjid at Garden Road, my commute all my life as a school girl.
My daughter has an ear infection she got from the swimming pool. The ENT specialist said that only God was the guarantor - no pool in Karachi is clean.
I do not live in Qasba Colony, Orangi Town or Kati Pahari. In 48 hours, people here have been to hell and back, and its not uncommon.
When serious (not everyday) violence happens in parts of Karachi, we see it manifest itself in areas this side of teen talvar in long queues at the petrol pumps and traffic jams, frenzied tweets and status updates. Four years ago when I was part of a group formed in solidarity with the lawyers, we acted hopeful. Society rose up in outrage after May 12th. People came out. People spoke of de-weaponization. People wrote statements expressing grief, and demanding the government take action. People thought change was possible. Students wanted time to discuss the events, and teachers desired to know how sweet minds internalized such grit. We even visited pashtuns evicted in a spate of violence in a far flung part of Landhi. We spoke to a speechless widow. We saw dead rabbits. We met endlessly hotels that hosted sleazy business and us - and sadly, we ordered tea only.
Rewind some more. Security forces kill 30 in Kurram Agency. This just yesterday.
There was a time when we actively opposed the drones, the operations that lead to displacement and destruction of innocents. What the hell are doing now being so complacent? Were we naive then? Or is that we just got used to it, and got busy with stuff that careers are made of. Is it that now activism must suit us - instead of us understanding the need of the day.
I wrote the following note on November 30, 2008.
I was sitting in a meeting at the labor party office discussing the war on FATA and the ethnic hatred brewing against Pashtuns in Karachi. Sherbaz got a text that there was firing in Benares. He suggested we break up the meeting, as people might have trouble getting home. However, we were having an intense discussion; how the war started in Waziristan, and is now in Bajour, and spilling into Mahmound, the shift from ground warfare to aerial bombardment, about the need to develop a third voice in the war on FATA - a voice that unequivocally condemns the bombing, and presents an analysis of the international players and their interests.So we went onto 7 pm. Its true that people living in defence and clifton have a different sense of security and immunity.
On the fifth floor we met sign makers assembling huge PPP signs requesting people to the join the Karachi division of the party. On this particular one, Asif Zardari' grin, and glossy skin were visible and despicable.
We were driving back on Drigh Road when S texted me asking where we were. I texted him back saying, "Regent Plaza." He said there was firing at Zainab Market a couple of miles away. It didn't make me fearful- the miles were insulation -- but I did register the urgency and the need to get home fast. Before getting on the Sindh Club Road, a commondo popped out of a police van. His gun dangled dangerously. He performed some protocol and then ushered a few cars in. We followed. It was already a city on the edge. It was already palpable.
When you enter City Karachi, you are put in an infinite loop. This is not a highway constructed by the honorable ex mayor. Its a tube lit rite of passage; its an escalator leading you up to a movie theater in the skies; its a little bit like Hotel California, except without the soft edges and bends, and certainly no champagne, just depleting mangroves. You should snap a heel. You should run against the stream. You should scream over the English of all the silly barristers. On the way, they inject you with something -- something that makes you accept the grim reality, and even enjoy it in pockets. Life is so stunning here. Cafe Pyala tweets mocking the English used in Alliance Francaise promos.
There are so many outlets for social activism that you barely even notice that the scenery crumbles now and then, and builds itself up again, weakly. New teenagers who join you along the way are already more acclimated than you are. They are not cynical; most just accept and live with big hearts, and focus only on their true loves -- Ipods, laptops, and pretty faces.
It seems easier now to take one issue and figure out a small change; its simpler if you deal with mini revolutions and set the stage for better times. A building near a school. The construction of an LNG terminal near Port Qasim. Diamond Bar City on islands. Standing with the peasants of Manchar Jheel rendered without a livelihood by the disastrous RBOD. The KESC union strike.
But even then. Each death should be mourned, investigated; people should be arrested but not tortured and brought to trial. Families of the dead should be compensated by the perpetrators. Bahut ho gaya. We detest this innocent loss of life. We condemn the perpetrators of this violence. We call for all who own weapons in Karachi to surrender them. We demand that fascist parties amend their agendas and modus operandi. We want peace and economic justice. Change is coming. And the only way to tap that energy is to think back to 2008 where hope was ample, and enthusiasm was plenty. Because really, this city wants nothing but wellness.