I am Karachi…

reimaginingReimagining 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 book1nearly 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.

re v IIFrom 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 book2tools 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!

book3My 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,Faraz-Khan 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.

reI 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.




KESC…. Winning Hearts?

For long, Karachi Electric Supply Corporation has had a tough time gaining popularity amongst the masses. Being a utility company, providing one of the most basic and important service of electricity, it is indeed an uphill task to ensure a certain level of “satisfied customer base”. The overall circular debt scenario, supply of fuel, law and order situation, etc., makes it even more difficult to ensure delivery of services and satisfaction at large.

This article is written from a perspective of a customer of KESC and a common man who has witnessed an amazing phenomenon and creation of “Wow Experiences”. As a common resident of Karachi, I have had my fair share of bad mouthing, to downright abusing KESC for the long hours of load-shedding, to fluctuation, to breakdowns to delay/no response to complaints. However, the perception has changed over the past few months. What is the reason behind this change?

KESC Ltd came live on twitter a few months back. Probably one of the best decisions the management of KESC ever took. How did this help KESC to create the perception it carries today and what is it that resulted in #KESC (being a Karachi-based utility company) trending in Pakistan, mostly with favorable tweets/comments?

Was this positive perception a result of reduced load shedding after KESC appeared on twitter? Was it because the supply of fuel ameliorated after KESC appeared on twitter? Was it because theft was controlled after KESC appeared on twitter? “NO”. None of this happened. However, something brilliant happened and this needs to have an in-depth study and be made a case for other organizations.

From the perspective of a common man and an observer, the difference was created because of the contact that was established between the customer and the service provider. Although the KESC Call Center has been up and running, a stark difference has been witnessed on the response time and the kind of response which has actually resulted in quite a fan-following. Learning here is that all a customer wishes, to begin with, is:

1. To be heard (by someone who is willing to listen and help)
2. To be promptly responded to: Analyzing from the responses and reaction, this does not entail immediate resolution at all. It can be safely said that if the customer is communicated promptly and honestly, there is an immediate appreciation of taking the end-user of any service on board and taking them into confidence.

While immediate solution to the problems will indeed be an ultimate experience, just bringing the end-user up to date with ground realities may assist customers to deal with the problem at hand in a more efficient manner and thereby, minimizing the trouble caused due to non-provision of something as basic as electricity. Having said that, indeed there have been many example of KESC not only listening, responding, but actually providing prompt resolutions as well.

While the issue of provision of electricity to the largest metropolis of Pakistan continues to be challenging, from the perspective of a consumer, it can be safely assumed that situation will improve in due course of time. At the same time, it is prayed that the consumer also become more responsible with regards to conservation, theft, etc., and realize what we need to do to put in our bit as may be needed greatly.

Honestly stating, the tweets/comments have been a mix in terms of negative and positive. However, since the idea of writing this article is to appreciate the services/response, some positive tweets/comments are mentioned below, in hopes to provide greater motivation to the management of KESC to improve even further.

@SarahDawood: @KESCwala – Bravo to the #KESC complaint resolution team – fixed my bijli at 4am… everyone said they will not come till the next day.

‏@jehan_ara: Third phase is back. Thanks for the prompt service RT @jehan_ara: Hey @KESC_Ltd why only two phases today? Can’t run the air conditioners.

‏@UroojZia@: KESC_Ltd Adjective aatey haiN ji when the complaint centre does not respond all day, & my deadlines are missed courtesy your organisation.

@babushka99: @jehan_ara @KESC_Ltd @zohaibkhanpk despite its misgivings of the past, #kesc is actually improving! Never thought I’d say that.

@taimoormq: Wow! It’s great to have @KESC_Ltd tweeting electricity/breakdown updates rather than having to call the clueless folks on 118.#karachi #KESC

@zakrana: #KESC: My area enjoys a better service because power theft is zero! Thank you KESC.