Reimagining Karachi is a heritage preservation initiative by Seedventures. It is an endeavour to restore Karachi to its former glory, prolong architectural and historical assets and rehabilitate old neighbourhoods around the city.
“Our dream was not just to start a conservation project; it was to create an environment where everyone joined hands to save these stone legacies and provide hope for the future. Reimagining Karachi is all about what we own, have overlooked for a long time and are now striving to protect and restore. What makes this project unique is the effort to bring together all the work that has been done separately so far, continue on with that and initiate and develop extensive, timely and focused programs to preserve and restore our glorious architecture. We strongly believe that this project should not be just about aesthetics, but should also have a direct and very strong impact on the environment, the economic, social and cultural activities in and around the historic areas.” – The Project Team
As part of this initiative, “two books titled Reimagining Karachi — Perspectives and Reimagining Karachi — Memories on the different historic facets of the city were launched” on May 25, 2015. It is an honor to share my essay which was benevolently selected to be a part of Volume I.
I Am Karachi!
In a day and age when many find raising two children an uphill task, I raise nearly 24 million. Mothers age and grow
frail, becoming dependent on their children as time goes by. I, on the other hand, grow stronger, with every passing day.
My children, many of my own, many whom I have adopted from all over, from the beautiful mountains of Kashmir, the valleys of Gilgit Baltistan, the northern beauties of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa & FATA, the lush green lands of Punjab, the beautiful plains of Balochistan, to the deserts of Sindh, all unite within me, weaving life in one of most beautiful symphonies.
From dawn to dusk, the children are doing what they do. Some are at work, some at are play, some laze around doing nothing. There seem to be natural sources behind it all as it all starts and concludes each day. While I house what may be the highest number of mendicants on the streets, I am home to the wealthiest as well. I am often labeled very dangerous, yet I don’t lose the pull which keeps the influx in full swing. I can’t turn away from the fact that my children die. They die every day. Yet, Edhi, Cheepa, Adeeb, they too are my children, who give life to many. All day, every day.
What is my identity? Who am I? I am all of my children. Nothing more, nothing less.
“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” – Dorothy C. Fisher
Within my own bounds, I try and make sure my children are provided the tools to become whatever they wish, offering a wide strata of primary, secondary, graduate and post graduate schooling under private and public set-up. Knowing my children the way I do, some are just not cut out for formal education while others just don’t want to, I try to create an environment with the help of my other, established and educated children to help out and lead the way, either by coaxing them into formal education, or vocational training. If that doesn’t work, there is always on-the-job training, which I do not endorse as it gives rise to exploitation of my young ones. Nevertheless, I offer various opportunities, guides, mentors, should one choose to seize the opportunity.
It is a dream of every mother to see her children grow up and be independent. Having such dreams for 24 million is quite a task in itself. From a bricklayer to a Chief Executive Officer of a Bank, the opportunities are unlimited. Each and every post, as important as another. Ask the president of a bank how productive the day was when the tea-boy took off!
My children can’t be working and studying all the time. That is just not possible. So I make sure there is something for everyone. There are Makkah and Medina, the Karahi places on the highway for those adventurous ones and the resilient truck drivers. Then there are Sakura, Okra, Flo for the sophisticated ones. The variety of food is unlimited. Almost everything, not only from all parts of Pakistan but from around the world is available to satiate the venturesome desires of not only my children but their friends who are visiting from time to time. Be it Kashmiri Chai, Chapli Kebab, Makai Ki Roti with Sarson Ka Saag, Sajji or simple, Karachi Broast, all is available in ample quanity. Tea at the dhaba or hi-tea at Asia Live, tea is a must for everyone for all my children. At times I really wonder if it is blood or tea that runs in their veins. They have come up with so many varieties of tea, I have actually lost count. I just smile as they play along, from simple Kahva and Doodh Patti to Green, Mint, Orange, Lemon Grass, and the list goes on. But tea is a must! And I make sure there is a perfect environment for each one of my children and their friends to enjoy tea. The early morning Paratha, which now is served almost all day, to my dislike, as it once carried its own peculiar value being served early in the day only, is something few can turn away from.
My vast beaches offer the tranquility for the early risers. As the sun starts to spread the gold over me, each morning, as if pouring life, one ray at a time, slowly, softly. From the beaches to farmhouses on the other end, an array of locations, once again, there is something for everyone, to make sure none of my children are unhappy. From the Malls, to Sunday Bazaars, to parks, to stadiums, to bowling alleys, to cinemas, everyone has an outlet. Various activities year around keep me alive which include but are definitely not limited to Food Festivals, Concerts, Carnivals, Circus, Road Shows, Car Shows, Shopping Festivals, and the list is far too long. I offer a lot to do and see for my children between the beaches and the mountains and beyond.
I have seen much extremism on my streets. Extremism based on ethnicity, class, religions, sect, yet, my children are one of the most diverse group of individuals. Belong to almost all colors of skin, all ethnicities, I am a mother of Urdu speaking, Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pakhtoon, Kashmiri, Shia, Sunni, Ahmedi, Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Atheist, and many more. I am often presented as unwelcoming and dangerous, which may be so, situational, but it hurts me when situations are blown out of proportion for personal gains and vested interests. I have Christians heading largest organizations, Parsis as CFOs, Memons leading the business community, Ahmedis in leading positions and there are many other such examples. Yes, they are all my children.
Who am I? What is my culture? What is my religion? My ethnicity?
I am Karachi. I am home to all. My culture is your culture. My ethnicity is your ethnicity. My religion is your religion.
Come to Karachi. Come home.