Showing posts from 2014


A pile of bricks rests on the side of the curb. The curb was black and yellow once upon a time but it is faded now, the paint had gotten bored, slid off and gone to brighter horizons. You can see the dull beige of the stones.
A motorcyclist zips to the right, cutting it close to avoid a muddy pothole. The sky is blue, brilliant, fresh, as if just colored in an hour ago, serrated streaks of clouds stretch across one part.
Neat, calm houses line the street and the traffic is rude, which is normal for 5:45 pm on a Tuesday.
Short stubby trees line the sidewalk that divides the main road and as the wind rustles, three green leaves fall off and onto my windshield.
The grounds are quiet, scattered with broken chairs, spilling piles of notebooks, lonely shoes without laces and stains of blood.
Smoke still lingers in the sky that has lost all color. 
The trees in the courtyard and by the boundary walls are quiet, stooping, immovable, stunned. The leaves still bright green from their morning…

Coloring is Fun

Karachi Scribbles V
I love the locations of our schools*.
We enter a labyrinth of narrow, dirt roads, over open sewers and past little kids grinning cheekily from street corners, poking at our dabba-van as it rattles within inches of them. Houses and shops crowd close, built almost into each other, side by side, sharing boundary walls and cups of tea over neighborhood gossip. The shops are numerous and tiny, almost identical, and I see them at every other turning, with their plastic jars of biscuits and candy and bored keepers, their customers usually under the age of 10, making well-balanced, slow decisions about spending a rupee or two.
Sleepy dogs and small children looking after even smaller children scatter the unpaved lanes, every now and then there is a long trail of garbage, plastic bags of blue, black and pink, peels of potatoes and squashed tetra packs.
It’s in these neighborhoods that I realize where the actual population of Karachi lies. If you think “Aaj Zamzama per bohat …

Ammah’s First Flight

Karachi Scribbles IV
My mom is without inhibitions when it comes to love and affection. She’s the kind of person who says salam to strangers, goes up to cute babies and asks their parents if she can play with them, who strikes up conversation with anyone and talks to them like they’re best friends. She’d go up to a crying stranger and ask them what’s wrong, or gently chide two young men yelling in public in a way that would make them change their tone and instead start whining to her about each other.
I’m not exactly like that. I’d think it all but I’m afraid of the people who wouldn’t say salam back, or glare at me for being intrusive. Basically, I’m an introvert. And afraid of benign repercussions. But sometimes, life makes it easy to be kind.
Traveling by yourself is great for sociological observations. It’s stressful to travel these days – are my bags too heavy, did I misplace my ID, is it dangerous for my four-year old to be bending down to touch the escalator belt – and a thousand …

Light Up, Karachi

Karachi Scribbles III
Strings of tiny lights canopied over the garden, pink and yellow paper lanterns swayed in a light breeze, and polka-dot balloons nodded in the air.
Bright colors exploded on canvasses and captured in frames, stuck up on wooden boards with clotheslines pins, or set stark against white borders, kaleidoscopes of imagination articulated on paper, drawn with charcoal and saturated with blues, yellows, pinks and violets.
Postcards of Karachi, snapshots of imaginary women, the neon colors of truck art and the faded photographs of forgotten city buildings – it was lovely to be in the midst of it all.
Cities across the world burst into action as soon as winter packs up her bags and starts her trek back up to the mountains – here in Karachi, winter is like a diva that creates too much fuss before coming and only stops by for a perfunctory peck on the cheek. Here in Karachi, we call it winter when we don’t need to turn on the ACs, where we take out shawls because we own them …

Too Close for Comfort: Introduction

Karachi Scribbles II
Bakra Eid is not my favorite. I have some snippets of memories associated with it that are flashed at the back of mind every now and then, five-second holographs, tugged into motion by some unaware association:
A still image of bright red blood streaming into the drain outside our gate, just the grey-tiled floor and the sliver of red (because I would keep my eyes trained to the ground on slaughter days).
The large, smooth spheres of cattle intestines that would line the backstreets of Islamabad, I can see them at the edge of my vision, as my cousins and I walk down to the market nearby. (That must have been at least 12 years ago, when the walk to the market itself was the treat rather than the few rupees we’d spend on sweets.)
I remember the goat that stepped on my foot, sparking a lifetime grudge. I was wearing open-toed slippers and was actually in a sweet mood, offering green stalks to the heavy-hoofed creature and he just came too close for comfort. And the thing …

Are We There Yet?

Karachi Scribbles I
It’s hard to tell when you’ve really, truly entered adulthood. Even the definition is somewhat ambiguous: fully grown – physically or psychologically? Mature – that’s definitely relative, and my favorite: of age.
I know for sure I didn’t feel like an adult when I turned 18. How can anyone feel like an adult in college where jeans, sneakers and t-shirts rule supreme and irons are unheard of? Where cooking two-minute ramein is a skill and bed sheets are optional, where you feel independent and free – from authority, responsibility and worry. Where you stick your head out of the car window and feel happiness tug at your hair, where music can never be too loud and where your youth is tangible, in the way you walk and talk and breathe and laugh.
Did I feel like an adult when I turned 21? Not quite, because I came right back home. Starting a job? Nopes, still living with my parents, although ironing slowly wormed its way into my life and closet.
I felt a semblance of adult…