Karachi is the hub of Pakistan. It has everything.
I had no expectations about it before arriving, with only vague associations to vibrant 50’s style dance clubs, smiling charismatic people, and a true sense of freedom. I saw the old Karachi from the old James Bond movie mixed with Casablanca.
In reality Karachi is a city with 23.5 million people with very few tall buildings. Without the arabian sea it would be completely surrounded by desert, and the atmosphere is something I didn’t even know existed.
Karachi used to be more like I imagined, but things have changed. At first glance it seems very restricted, but there’s a soul that pumps deep inside the heart of Karachi. By taking the chance and trusting Ins’Allah, we were invited to see the invisible.
Karachi is freedom. This is a place where rules really are more like guidelines, and where a persons actions towards others are reciprocated many fold. Projecting danger will get you danger, but smiling and opening up will open a world I thought only existed in fairytales.
I thought the world had been rid of freedom, thinking that we just need to accept where the world is going and make the best of it. I see now, that the Karachians value their freedom and will not let it be so easily destroyed.
For me freedom used to be something that could be taken away from people. Especially if people have the stupidity to give it up. Even the idea of freedom could be changed through decades and centuries of propaganda, but now I see that true freedom is something very different. True freedom is something that cannot be eradicated because it is an integral part of life. Life has freedom to do as it will, and like this it will forever be.
We’ve been staying at Shahids place and he’s a couch surfer. He’s a Big Man, and the big brother of the coolest, most humble guy on the planet. Their family took us in, gave us food and shelter, and made us feel right at home. Our cool guy Ali took on the responsibility of fixing the transmission with his his mechanic friend, so we had a chance to see the city.
By letting these humble and hospitable people show us their own city in the way they see fit has taken us to unbelievable places. The city streets are deserted always 1-2 hours before Iftar and it has been the perfect time to go cruising, and the best thing about the cruising has been going to the ‘dangerous’ places where no one goes.
In some places it is clearly seen why an air of danger is pushed out there, and it’s because people have things that they don’t want others to see. It’s easier to hide them from people if no one even thinks about going there. Not taking too much curiosity on whatever they’re hiding and staying respectful, nothing has felt dangerous.
Not even that one time when we went to swim in a place we apparently were not allowed to called Paradise Point. This was an amazingly beautiful beach where the humble seaside glamour of the historic Karachi could still be felt.
Paradise Point used to have a great arch from which to peer out into the horizon, but life has done it’s deed and now only an imaginary arch can be seen being held up by a huge pillar in the middle. We enjoyed the swim and as the sun went down we were greeted by 7 armed men in a car.
The seven men saw that we were three men and one girl swimming. Immediately they started asking whether this ‘indecently’ dressed girl was alright. They wanted to make sure we had not taken advantage of her, which was very nicely done, and then they asked to see some ID.
AQ, our host, had forgotten to take his documents. We had also forgotten to take our documents, the car had no documents, no one had a drivers licence, and the only one who had a passport copy was Hannah. You might think that in the worlds most dangerous city, this situation might be somewhat uncomfortable.
Juho and Hannah went into the car to be safe, and I stood there smiling at them while they asked AQ a lot of questions. They then checked Hannah’s phone, because they thought I had no phone with me. Within twenty minutes AQ had talked our way out, without giving corruption money, and we were driving towards dinner.
AQ really showed us what it meant to be free, and from his way of being we noticed that there’s a way of thinking in Karachi.
The freedom comes from people taking power for themselves, but not in the bad way. In this religion people respect each other and take care of each other, at least during the month of Ramadan, and by doing that they take responsibility for themselves. Here people do not rely on authorities, because everyone knows that authorities are not there to take care of them.
This means that people don’t give away their power. It might seem a little anarchistic, but it works here. People do as they feel right while still respecting each other. It’s amazing.
Even traffic jams have a way with them. Normally everyone is trying to take their own space, but when there’s a knot people work together lubricate the going, faster than anywhere else I’ve seen.
This is by far my favourite place to drive around with the tuk tuk. Wide good roads, not much traffic, and it feels like driving across the world. This city is huge, and it changes so much from area to area. I love it.
Today is Eid, the local Christmas, and Karachi is at peace. Next week we should be back on track Ins’Allah, but before that we will explore more of this city that defies understanding and turns the world upside down.
The sun is setting, hundreds of prayers are gathering and echoing together, and mosques are filling up. The words of the day are Love and Goodwill. The sky is Pink, and soon Karachi will transform once again into its groove as the fast moving hub of Pakistan.