“I am Karachi”: The Call of an Extinguished Fire

Assalamoalaikum (peace be upon you). Here is an essay that I submitted for the Karachi Literature Festival Competition held by Compassionate Karachi. My essay got selected for publication in Compassionate Karachi’s book, “Hum Qadam”.

————————————————————————————————————————-I am sitting by my window, observing the crowded street cry with impatient honks, while I try to block out the sound, coming from the television, of a newscaster reporting recent terrorist attacks in Karachi. A lot of voices flurry through my mind:

“There is nothing left in this place. I have lost all hope”

“14 have died. 56 are injured and have been transported to the nearest hospital”

“Oh! Turn off the TV, what does it matter? There’s nothing new here.”

This is my city-the hub of intolerance and insecurity, flooded with voices of dismay and hopelessness. Yet I wonder why I still can’t get myself to hate this city.  My city and my country are living symbols of downfall and disgrace, but there is something-something special about this place.

I am still sitting by my window when I hear a voice.

Hush! Hush! Can you hear it?

No, no! You have to listen more closely.

Shhh! Did you catch it? It’s throbbing somewhere within the honks and blasts, I think.

Now, I can hear it more closely, more intricately, more clearly. It’s not a hoarse or melodious voice, but a collective voice-as if a lot of people’s pleas are echoing- with urgency and awakening. It says:

“I am Karachi, the city of waning lights.

I am bruised and burnt and blasted.

I am wounded and I am dying.

I am no more a city of brightness and colour. I am but, an extinguished fire.

I am a helpless plea, a desperate call.

I am bomb blasts, and treacheries and robberies and starvations.

I am gloom and nothingness.

But wait, wait! There’s more.

There’s more to me, more to Pakistan, than unlicensed guns and sporadic bomb blasts.

There is more to me than target killings, treacheries and robberies.

There is far, far more to me than hopelessness and insecurity.

I am breathless, but I am regaining my breath. I am sick, but I am convalescing.

Oh! Have you not seen my streets? Polluted, yes. Characterized by impatience, yes. Insecure, yes. But have you not seen the victims of a road accident being carried away to a hospital by random passers-by who are complete strangers?

Have you not seen my nooks? Dirty, yes. Congested, yes. But have you not seen them brimming with hope?

Have you not seen my people? Poor, many. Confused, yes. Exasperated, yes. But have you not seen them reaching the summits of altruism and philanthropy?

I am SIUT, I am Edhi, I am Chhipa, I am the Indus Hospital, I am TCF and I am many, many more.

I am no more a fire, but that last resilient spark of an extinguished fire, ready to rekindle the moment that I am destined to.”

The voice goes silent. I am still sitting by my window, charged and untangled. I lift my head up high with pride. I have finally received my call and my answers.

I now know why I can’t get myself to hate my city and my country. It’s because that voice didn’t come from the streets. It came from within me. I could hear it along with the beating of my heart.

I am a part of my land rather; my land is a part of me.  It’s the home of my hopes, my aspirations, my dreams and my being.  It lives within me.

This country of hope and this city of lights keep me going.  You know why? It’s because, I, a fifteen year old girl, who goes to school and wears glasses, along with all the citizens who can hear this call  are Karachi- rich or poor, old or young.

We all are Karachi.

I am Karachi.

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