Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Karachi Diary: Day 1

Before Karachi, there was Hyderabad. Hyderabad, India, as I'm growing used to specifying; not Hyderabad, Sindh.

At the Hyderabad Airport, first the man at the ticket counter and then the man at Immigration, took a long look at my Pakistan visa. They called their superiors, claimed they were too new and had no experience in handling Pakistan visas. They took copies of my documents. They asked me to say what I did and where I wrote. I wrote out a list of places where my work has appeared. (This blog did not feature in this list).

It is now nearly 6pm in my lovely hotel room in Karachi. I have just returned from my police verification where there were more copies of documents made, more genial questions. This seems worth noting, that at none of these places were people actually hostile. They were merely taking note of where I was coming from and to and acting accordingly.

Of the 24 hours between the ticket counter in Hyderabad and the police visit in Karachi, I can tell you very little. Moments of anxiety that come with any form of international travel: will I make my connecting flight? What time is it there? (there being unspecified) Will my baggage arrive? In one piece or several - bite your tongue on that thought!

The lack of sleep. I have slept for maybe four hours in the last 36, in snatches of two hours or so. I am light-headed with lack of sleep and yet I daren't lie down just now. There are still things left to do before tomorrow and if I sleep now i will probably be up at 2am and in no condition to do anything tomorrow.

But these are not the things you want to know.

You want to know about the airport at 4am, with the unexpectedly cold breeze, the yellow full moon setting, the hordes of people with rose garlands wrapped in plastic, waiting for their people to emerge from the maws of immigrations.

You want to know how wonderful and gleaming the roads seem after Hyderabad, how they're still shiny at noon and later, though clogged with traffic as any road might be in this part of the world.

And how the air feels like Bombay and the trees feel like home though there are some I cannot identify. My friend says to me, "If you find someone in Karachi who can name these trees, let me know." I can name ashoka, neem, peepul and banyan, but there's a shrub-like tree that reminds me of something I can't remember the name of. Then, in conversation about habitat, it occurs to me: it must be a variety of mangrove tree. I've seen leaves like it in Pichavaram. 

There was shopping. I have a list of requests but it seems likely that I will buy even half of what people say they want. One, because there will be no time, and two, exhaustion does not sharpen the eye. Nothing I saw pleased me enough.

The place where I bought shoes, though. They gave us chai and chatted with us and gave us discounts. They called me their mehmaan. I can see I am going to get called this often, and I preen a little inside when they do.

Then the sea. A sight of the creek from the hotel room, a quick drive by the beach - not enough but it will do for now.

Tomorrow and the day after, I will do a poetry workshop with people at Habib University and Kavery Nambisan, who is also with me on this trip, will do a fiction writing workshop with other young people.

That and other things in the next post. If I continue now, I will scatter words here and there more for sound than sense. I'm not even going to read over what I've written because I might not reach the end of it. Please excuse typos and incoherence. I will gather myself by and by.


km said...

Do a multi-part travel essay with photos and poems please :)

Gayatri Chawla said...

Heard so much about Sind from my dad , he was born in the village of Manjhu near Uner Pur. My grandfather migrated during the partition, heard many Karachi tales but never visited this city. A friend mentioned Gulf market and Tarik road for shopping. Do try the local cuisine,'Dal pakwan' is a Sindhi speciality.
Bon voyage and safe travels

Space Bar said...

Gayatri: Thank you - will look out for those two places. And of course will try the food! I think I'm going to discover many partition stories. So many people have already asked if I have family here, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

km: Eventually. These are rough workings as they happen. Fine cut later!