Karachi Again

After about seven months, I was back in Karachi last week, this time for a wedding. Regretfully, it wasn’t one of the best weddings I’ve attended and the rest of the trip was pretty awful.

A number of people from Islamabad and Lahore couldn’t attend due to the timing of the event and those that did, looked back nostalgically at earlier weddings and didn’t even try to make it as fun. There were no digital cameras around (except the ones on our mobiles) and I alone lost about 4 rolls of film (yes the black shiny things they used to use before CF cards and memory sticks took over) due to camera malfunctions.

As for the rest of the trip, I wasn’t in very good health when I landed in Karachi and being there just made it worse. Although the cold disappeared in the mildly warm weather, the slight cough I had just kept getting worse and is still bothering me. I’ve never before realised how bad the air really is down there and the water is notorious for causing all sorts of illnesses. The swarms of unmaintained vehicles and most of the refuse of 10 million+ citizens just burning in the streets probably sends out enough toxins to put Mordor to shame.

One of the main drawbacks of having hordes of relatives in a city you hardly ever visit is that you end up with no time to make even brief visits to everyone you know, let alone go sight-seeing and have some fun. Most of the Karachiites I met had a disturbing laid-back demeanor about them instead of the hectic mood you would expect in a metropolis this big and I ended up wasting a lot of time simply waiting or listening to others go on and on about things that don’t exactly interest me.

Development work on new roads and utilities also seems to stand still though a lot of residential and commercial buildings are popping up everywhere. The whole city seemed to be a giant, developed slum that’s slowly falling into decay. Even the really affluent areas seem to have a dusty, worn-down look to them. Maybe I just never got to the really good places, but compared to Karachi, Islamabad feels like a smaller, greener Tokyo.

Calling it a blessing if you like, but I was cut off from email and the net for the duration of my stay. Nobody I know in Karachi uses it for anything serious. It’s just a means of chatting to relatives or strangers when they have nothing better to do.

On the positive side, I got home safe without falling victim to the growing crime (armed muggings and car-jackings are quite common these days). Thank God for that. I got to drive a classic (a first) left-hand drive (also a first) Mercedes (another first) in Karachi (one last first). A strange thing I noticed was that despite the much higher volume and worse condition of vehicles and roads, the Karachi traffic was generally much better than that in Islamabad/Rawalpindi. I put it down to better driving skills.

Though the return Aero Asia flight was over two hours late (second time that’s happened on the same flight) and uncomfortable, they bumped me up to business class on the one leaving Islamabad. I guess it really does help to dress well.