The city comes awake like it has never been asleep because this city has never learnt how to

We keep our windows closed or we risk crisp hair and the gentle, scorching touch of the sun upon

our foreheads; the sunscreen has left streaks across my cheeks

Sometimes when I drive, the rickshaws decide to trample me or maybe it is the motorcycles that

swarm upon you, a flock of bees and you are honey perhaps i should have stayed at home instead

But this traffic is a river, it is a migration home, this traffic has learnt to fight itself a path and forgo

patience what are traffic lights to gods what are straight lines to chaos, sometimes when you swerve

around a bus all you hear are prayers

We are a drought for a year and a half, parched tongues and cracked lips maybe the vaseline will

help maybe the tin isn’t empty maybe you can take another bath but then the skies open up and

they know no moderation

Karachi is not cold and yet karachi is not gentle it is monsoon rains until we are afloat until the water

has flooded our lungs until it has washed us free of sin karachi knows no moderation

It is skies that are ablaze and skin that prickles, the car seat has burnt me enough times and yet I still

brave the outside still I have to brave the outside but my god when the sun goes down and the sky

becomes a painting the pastel colours have me hanging out a window breathless the pastel colours

have painted my room pink

The thin line between love and hate and karachi has taken refuge just under it the thin line between

home and a prison how can you love the water that laps at its feet and hate the homes that protect

you from it how can you walk across a beach and realize man has forsook it so you discard the five

wrappers you found and you apologise to the ocean maybe if you ask desperately enough it will

swallow us whole


Fire that was the first act of betrayal or perhaps it was when cain struck his brother dead or maybe it

was when your friends went for parathas to chai wala and your mom said no

Karachi is men that can’t decide if they want to stare or not and children that knock on your

windows at traffic lights we have perfected the art of a straight face and unwavering eyes how can

you pretend there is no one beside you maybe we should try theatre tomorrow

Cars that do not know to keep their high beam off or maybe they have forgotten this is the city that

flashes a light seven times before it remembers to use the horn maybe it is politer or that we hate

the sound just as much as the next car over and yet neither moves and so you have to honk the horn

anyway, this traffic has learnt to swerve around itself after all

Karachi is a raised corner at the side of a busy road and the distant sound of azaan how we fight at

every dinner and yet strangers gather as one and we are the same in prayer how you are angry at

your father but the sight of a cat outside the door you just slammed behind you softens your heart

how you cannot wait for winter even if it lingers barely a month

Sometimes the sun decides to hide and we decide what a lovely day we decide perhaps this time we

should have pakoras and chai on a rooftop somewhere, karachi is nothing if not rooftops. it is all the

plans we make and forget it is the heat that ruins this hair I spent all of ten minutes on. you say

that’s nothing, you should see mine after I take a bath. I see my smile reflected in a new necklace I

bought before the rust overtakes it and we shake our fists at that damned salty, sea. once the ocean

swallowed a book I was reading and I don’t think I should have fished it out

The mosquitos have never learnt to be quiet or maybe it is the quiet ones that leave you swearing,

how the wind barely whispers sometimes and we have learnt to wave our arms around to keep the

insects away. there was a centipede in my house the other day and I killed a leaf to save it

Karachi is an escape and yet you are stuck in traffic do we park in the basement or choose the valet

we can never decide. it is the malls that have nothing and everything at once. the billboards have

only gotten bigger and emptier and an eyesore all at once, it is a labyrinth of streets we have learnt

by heart and that one woman on a motorcycle I wish was me

How I have grown here and hated here and yet I do not mind waking up for another day, how it is

mine but has never been mine how it belongs to itself and yet we argue over it. I will wake up

tomorrow and take a plane and karachi will never have existed at all

Karachi I will not remember and yet I cannot forget.


Photography by: Ali Rizvi on Unsplash