Reflections on being back in Karachi
Share this on

Reflections on being back in Karachi

Damn, it’s good to be home. Every time I come back for holidays, it’s amazing how little things change, except for the wedding season. The wedding season is a bit like Karachi landscape: every year it gets bigger, and every year it seems to get more grotesque, even though the intent is to make it grander. I have heard some crazy stories, from a wedding with — count them — eight separate functions to a wedding in Dubai where the entire Atlantis hotel is booked for the weekend.

Speaking of weddings, I was explicitly asked by my buddy Farooq Nomani to give him a shout out on account of his upcoming nuptials. Farooq is well known in Karachi for being one of the leading lawyers of the country, for throwing rose petals on Mumtaz Qadri at his trial, and for having “Youniskhan” as his wifi password (only one of the preceding three facts is true, I’ll let you figure out which one). So congrats to Farooq and his to-be-missus.

Anyway, since I’ve been back, this is the stuff I’ve been thinking about.

The gap between the rich and the poor is not just about the big things

Obviously if you were asked to list the main differences in the lifestyles between the elite in Pakistan and poor people in Pakistan, you’d probably throw in access to education as the first point. Proper housing and transport would be up there. Food, and so on.

But the little things matter too. Excuse the Tom Friedman-esque point, but this came to me when I talked to the concierge at the hotel to figure out the Arab spring was trying to take a shower a couple days ago.¬† Our gas supply had simply stopped (more on this in a second) and as a result we had no hot water. It wasn’t a big deal, but yes, a cold shower on a rare cold day in Karachi (temperatures in single digits!) was slightly uncomfortable.

Of course, that led me to thinking about people who, even if they happen to have running water in their homes (not a given by any stretch of the imagination), don’t really have the luxury of choosing between hot and cold water for their sanitary needs. Much liberal guilt ensued.

Anyway, can I also note the absurdity of gas supply just ending? We import our oil, we’ve started importing our electricity, and now our gas supply is stopping. Is Pakistan going to rely on cow-dung for its energy needs starting in 2020?

Also, speaking of cow dung…

The khakis are up to no good again

All sorts of speculation, innuendo, and conjecture about the khakis making a move against President Zardari. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. And that’s one of the reasons I don’t really buy it. From strokes to minus-one formulas to fake coups, this is about the six or seventh time I’ve read or heard “Zardari is on his way out! It’s over!” rumors. Color me skeptical, for the time¬† being, if only because I’ve heard this particular boy yelling about this particular wolf way too many times.

For whatever it’s worth, though, I spoke on the phone to Someone In The Know a couple hours ago, and he was adamant that this time is really different, and that AZ is definitely gone. We’ll see. I’ll get more info tomorrow when I meet Someone In The Know.

Imran Khan is the popular girl in high school

Remember the days when a phone call from the right girl in school would be a topic of conversation amongst your friends for the next twelve days? Well, I see your popular girl in high school, and raise you Imran Khan, whose robocall operation has hearts aflutter all over Karachi.

You see kuptaan saab is having a jalsa in Karachi on the 25th and to that end, his party is sending out recorded invitations to the rally by phone. And even though it’s a recording, people are going nuts. “Oh my god, have you gotten the Imran Khan call yet” is the new “hey, how are you?”

This is definitely a function of the socio-economic circles I’m in, but I’ve never heard as much buzz about a political event as I have with this PTI jalsa. People ask about it like a wedding or high society party: you’re going, right? RIGHT? In my case, I am going, but as an observer rather than a supporter.

One other point on Imran Khan: it’s very, very noticeable that the tone and content of his supporters’ talking points has changed. The last few times I’ve been back, the gist of the PTI story has been one of aggressive differentiation: we are very different, we are better, everyone else is corrupt, last hope, etc etc. This time it’s more: you need all sorts of characters to succeed in politics, the ends justify the means, he’s still better than the rest, etc etc. It’s a less naive position, and more attuned to ground realities in Pakistani politics.

Suffice it to say, I’m glad the lessons of all these turncoats flipping to PTI has been learned. Pretty soon PTI will be a normal patronage based party wheeling and dealing on the basis of its 15-25 seats and everyone will live happily ever after. Well, everyone except for the people who bought the whole “tabdeeli ka nishan” bit.

IK-poster

How can you stand in the middle of an ocean? Unless of course you're Jesus...

#Team-not-Misbah

If you want to find the exemplification of the term “fool’s gold”, look no further than Misbah and his boring, boring team.

If there’s one thing that characterizes my trips back to Pakistan other than family and friends, it’s the chance to watch some test cricket, which I simply cannot do on a regular basis in the U.S. But this time, I haven’t been able to watch more than a session and a half at a stretch. One issue is the opposition; I think it’s time Bangladesh stopped playing test cricket for a while and only played 4 day games against other countries’ youth sides.

But the main issue is the utter dry, anodyne, cure-for-insomnia cricket that we’re playing. Other than Younis Khan and Saeed Ajmal, and to a much lesser extent Umar Gul and Aizaz Cheema, there is not one single player in this team I would pay to watch. Plus, we’re so defensive in our approach, so sedate and guarded and afraid, that even hardcore fans of cricket can’t afford to watch. What happened to us? (For a spirited defense of Misbah and his boring ways, read this by Hassan Cheema).

Yes, we’ve been successful with these methods, but against a top team, we’re going to get slaughtered. This good run by Misbah, as I said earlier, is fool’s gold. It’s covering up the very real deficiencies in this team, particularly in the batting, where we have four and a half plodders in the top six. I’d be happy to be proven wrong but England is going to kill us, mainly because when they’re on top they’re going to drive home the advantage, but when we’re on top, we’ll score at 2.75 an over, let them back in the game, collapse in an almighty heap to Swann, and lose.