Life Lesson #415: The best part about the roads in Karachi is not being on them.
Honestly, it’s as if giving way to another person here is a sign of existential defeat or chemical castration. Despite this, I’ve been seduced by the sun and sand of our city by the sea, and am delaying my return to the landlocked, fog-obscured, passive-aggressive party-season hell-hole that is Lahore.
Woman: “OMG, you’ve moved back?!”
Me: “I’ve been here for three years, I attended your wedding a month ago.”
*Awkward pause followed by exodus to the buffet*
It’s a joy to be in Karachi. (Bless friends with apartments here. Bless them hard.) The last two weeks in December are always a busy time in our country. Other than the endless Christmas/Quaid Day/New Year’s/Wedding parties, the late year also heralds the return of Foreign Pakistanis from abroad, an excited bunch who have the luxury of spending the end of every year with people they won’t have to see until the next (how I remember those days).
[quote]If bourgeois Karachites are Burgers, than the Sindh Club is their McDonalds[/quote]
That’s the only issue if you yourself have been living domestic the entire year: the last thing you want to do is see the same faces with new implants. In that sense, Karachi has been a godsend. Why, just the other night I was invited to not one but two gatherings at Karachi’s fabled Sindh Club (I say “invited”; I mean “gate-crashed elegantly”). If bourgeois Karachites are Burgers, than the Sindh Club is their McDonalds. The beautiful place is light years ahead of its geriatric sister in Lahore or its poor cousin in Islamabad, and I don’t think it’s even on speaking terms with its counterpart in Quetta (in that sense it’s like so many aristocratic families here).
I walked into the first party to a see of a group of faces I know only from stalking the society pages. The singular disadvantage of such cursory knowledge is that you keep chatting to people you know only as “…and friend”. Still, people were attentive and happy, and I introduced myself to several revelers who actually replied with hellos rather than bitchy looks of incomprehension. There is only so much time one can spend doing this without food, and so I made my way to the grander, far more socially adept party upstairs where I spent the rest of the evening guarding my spot next to the tempura station like a lion with a grudge.
I was impressed with the dress code, which saw everyone in suits or dresses. Not summer dresses of kaftans either; I’m talking full-on D&G cocktail numbers. Earlier I had been told I couldn’t wear jeans to the club and, having packed little else (I mean, c’mon, it’s a coastal city), I immediately made my way to Dolmen Mall to get some. This mall looks like a transplant from Dubai: clean, well-stocked and crawling with hijabans and sleevelesses in the lingerie section (I don’t stalk them, only delight in their discomfort from afar). They had this super-cute little Santa’s House where Santa sat with screaming children petrified at being handed over to a pedo-lookalike. (The fake snow was nice.) But there is only so much newness even in Karachi, and I inevitably found myself landing in political conversations. Most people were talking about Bilawal Bhutto’s recent speech. You know I know you know I am not a fan of public political speeches in Pakistan, except for the classics by Rehman Malik which I think should be turned into a hit TV show or, at the very least, an audiobook. Imagine my surprise then when suddenly everyone was talking about how Bilawal Bhutto has become a rock star for “taking on” the Taliban. The speech was all over TV and was hard to miss. That someone, anyone, had the guts to get up on a massive platform and unambiguously declare that the terrorists of Pakistan are insults to Islam, and to do it without any kind of caveat or built-in loophole, deserves mad props. Whatever your view on dynastic politics or provincial parties (and God knows I have views), BBZ was able to say what no one else has so far said. Not Nawaz Sharif, not Tahir-ul-Qadri, and certainly not Imran-OMG-is-that-another-crane-Khan.
I’ve gotten so used to politicians not speaking the truth that such spontaneous acts of lucidity still surprise me. Take the news only this week of the step-son of a famous feudal who allegedly shot dead a security guard at a cinema hall because the guard wasn’t letting him and his friends in. Process that for a second. Process that a spoilt little chit of a boy ended a man’s life because of a movie ticket. Process that and you’ll begin to see what kind of place we’re living in. It may not exist in the parties at the Sindh Club, or at the New Year’s Eve gathering this past week, but it is our reality. Five bucks says the kid will be out on bail or blood money within five months.
My New Year’s Resolution is to hope that I’m wrong. Actually, my resolution for 2014 is to hope, period.
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