Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Stranger in a strange land

Home: one's place of residence; the social unit formed by a family living together; a familiar or usual setting, congenial environment; also the focus of one's domestic attention; a place of origin. (Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Some call me confused. Me, I think I am just privileged. I can call more than one city home. In addition to cities, I identify several houses as home too. (Not houses owned by me, I must add!)
During my adult life, 'home' has encompassed several cities, all which have filled my memory bank with positive memories. However, I imagine one's city of birth will always have a special place for anyone. So it is with me.
Few may consider Karachi to be special. It's large with an undetermined population, probably somewhere around eighteen million. The city's infrastructure gave way sometime about a decade ago. Violent crime may not compare with Washington D.C. or New Orleans but surely Karachi cannot be too far behind these days. 
Tomorrow's Karachiites

But there's something about the city which is special to Karachites. Even for those of us who are first generation.
Karachi is a true mother to orphans. Unlike Singapore, there is no debate about immigration or foreign talent. No known or unknown quotas for permanent residency status or citizenship. No ethnic mixes to manage.
Walk into the city and make a home as best as possible. No questions asked. No declarations to make and no oaths to swear.
The city keeps accepting. The people keep coming. The poor keep dreaming of a better life. The rich keep getting richer.
But Karachi keeps its promises of freedom and opportunity too.
It's Karachi's kids. We are all **stards. We abuse the city and everything she gave and continues to give.
Rather than build we destroy. Rather than nurture our roots we depart and deprive. Our only consolation: for every one ingrate like me hundreds of newcomers arrive daily with dreams and hopes of their own.
Yet, it's my Karachi and that of seventeen million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand other souls too. 
Karachi's National Academy of Performing Arts

If Karachi ever got whiff of Singapore's Maintenance of Parents Act, all us kids would certainly be in the dock. And we deserve to be. We don't have the gratitude or fortitude to give back even a fraction of what the city gave to us. Heaven knows that despite everything the city remains a good mother.
As for me, it really is good to be home again.

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