Friday, May 31, 2013

Karachi Calling


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Colorful, Chaotic Karachi



I thought I had a language of my own. I thought I had lived long enough to acquire the necessary words to describe the world, to absorb it, to interpret it. I thought I had command of a language enough to know its meaning. 

Then I came to Pakistan and I realized that I lacked all ability to describe this place. 

I would need to spend a lifetime learning another language just to talk about the way wind combs through the pleats of a powder white burqa when it is worn by a woman on the back of a motorcycle. Watching those white folds dance around the speeding tires of the bike, I am unsure of how to put all these images together in one scene: the white burqa, the motorcycle, the sunlit streets of downtown Karachi, crowded and dirty. Like the past, present, and future lost their places in that linear space we created for them, and now they  encircle each together in one clashing scene.

Embellished minibuses skirt past us, like floating jewelry boxes. When our car nears them the kaleidoscope of color becomes clearer and the fine details of the painted buses emerge, each one more and more elaborate. One rickshaw stops near the car long enough for me to catch a  glimpse of the spray painted silhouette of a woman holding a machine gun.

A mule pulls a man on a wheel cart bearing fruits. Beside him the mini bus carries groups of men or women, but never a mixture of both. The owner of an impeccable Prius looks out at the city through tinted windows. In between the cars, men of every age fill in the empty spaces with tiny motorcycles. A family of six sits on folding chairs in the back of a truck like a mobile picnic. A white van with the word 'ambulance' hand painted on the side meanders through traffic, no faster than the rest of us. Another pick-up truck serves as a policy car. An officer stands upright in the back of the truck, leaning against the car, he holds a riffle with both hands, and points it to oncoming traffic.

 - Excerpt form my Travel Diary: March 25, 2013 4:00 pm, Karachi, Pakistan

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