Hey, Karachi

In the morning when I wake up staring at the white ceiling with its Ikea paper lamp, I think of the teal blue of my cotton curtains back home, and the sunrays giggling just behind them, like children playing hide and seek.

When I leave for work, letting the heavy door of our building close with a disgruntled thud, I look up at the English sky suffocated with sad gray clouds, I pull my jacket closer, and I think of the bright blue of the sky back home, where in late September it would only be in the early morning that the air would feel cool on my arms and face.  The trees in my street would be bright green, and I would be able see the sun, with the customary stray clouds strolling along the expanse.

I miss my office, I even miss having to wear shalwar kamees with a dupatta every day (I’ll take it over the three layers I wear everyday and the mind-boggling choice between short boots, calf-length boots and the simpler close-toed loafers with worn out soles). 

I miss the sound of people talking in Urdu, saying hullo to the cleaning staff, trying my luck at getting a cup of frothy hand-beaten coffee or at least the Tapal tea bags tucked away in the cabinets beneath our tea station.  I miss being hungry as soon as we’d get into work, despite having had breakfast and then finally giving up around 10 am to get a paratha from the cafeteria to share with my team.

I miss working for my own country, my people, and most of all I miss the children, the ones with the shy smiles and the ones with the cheeky grins and the ones who look solemn all the time, with their imperfect uniforms, belts tied too tight to prevent hand-me-down pants from falling down, missing buttons and faded shirts, their dark hair plaited into shiny braids and tied with red or green ribbons. 

I miss feeling warm.  And I miss enjoying the cold, you know, when at the end of a burning hot day, the city finally cools down and you step outside in the dusky evening, the pinks and lavenders in the sky are holding hands and slowly blending into one another, a lover’s embrace darkening into the deep blue of night, the breeze stirs and you remember to exhale slowly.  I miss the rustle of the breeze through the long, wise, free leaves of palm trees.  I miss the crisscross of electric wires that line our skies so that birds have some place to sit after a busy day of flying and cawing. 

I miss the sounds of crows, loud and obnoxious, and the tiny little sparrows that hop around puddles, sipping daintily from the dirt.

I miss being happy when it rains.  Rain in England is so horribly boring.  It’s so standard, and constant, washing all the colours out, hanging like a damp cloth over everything, cold and weary, quiet – rain in Karachi brightens everything up, it wipes the dust away from trees and buildings and makes things shiny (yes, I know it’s coupled with power outages and drowned streets and water shortages, etc. but pardon me, I’m allowing myself to float in a sea of nostalgia where only the silver linings shimmer and all the negatives are blown out like candles on a 7 year old’s birthday cake).  I miss thunder so loud it makes you jump and remember God, I miss lightning jagged, pure electricity in the sky, bright purple, crackling power for a split second and then vanishing, leaving an after image like the faded marks of writing on sand washed out by the waves … I miss the smell of rain, the way the wet breeze scoops up dust and earth from the ground and the sidewalks and the leaves and whirls it around, the intoxicating fragrance of life and clouds that you want to stick out your tongue and eat up, the first splash on the ground that makes you run out to the window or the door and lift your face up towards the sky …

Here when it rains, and it’s always raining, mundane, boring, like the mumbling monologue of an uninteresting old professor you doze off to in class, here when it rains, you pull your hood up and tuck your chin in and just walk a little bit faster. 

I miss wearing a t-shirt.

I miss wearing flip-flops.

I miss the bright papery fuschia and white bougainvillea spilling over walls, I miss the sprawling bungalows, the faded facades of ugly apartment buildings with their mismatched windows and doorbells that don’t work, and laundry flailing in small balconies.

I miss the smell of chai brewing dark and strong, I miss those small round doughy parathas you get from roadside dhabas and restaurants with their tandoors out on the road and tucked away ‘family halls’ with air conditioners dripping water.

I miss paratha rolls and bun kababs, and chicken korma that doesn’t taste weirdly sweet, and biryani that doesn’t look like pulao with chicken curry on it, I want a chicken tikka to be charcoaled, a breast or leg piece, not shredded pieces of meat sprinkled over a ‘naan bread’ or ‘chips’.  I want the small meat samosas, and gol guppas.

I want to get in my car and drive along the roads of Karachi under the bright orange street lights, I want to go visit my favourite book stores and buy cheap books, then drive by the beach and watch the sun set into the dark gray waves.  I want to drive over to Hera’s house and just collapse on her bed and talk for an hour and drink more tea.  I want to talk in a mix of English and Urdu without having to repeat anything because sometimes people don’t understand my accent even though I thought I spoke clear and loud enough.  I want to be where people don’t know the difference between the pronunciation of words that start with v and w.

I miss the sounds of the night – the night breeze, the distant sound of traffic, music from the neighbour’s house, the chatter of chowkidars out in the street, the sound of Urdu, and Punjabi and even the constant noise of news channels perpetually buzzing in all homes.  

I don’t know.  Reckon I may be homesick?  


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