Two cities both alike in dignity, in fair Pakistan where we lay our scene.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is a tale of two cities, so different and far apart.
It is old. It is new. It blooms in the heart of green fields. It sprawls out of a sandy desert. It is in the land of five rivers. It is in the land of one river. It has the canal. It has the sea. It has the gardens. It has the beaches. It is the citadel of culture. It is the bastion of business. It has the heritage of Mughals. It has the heritage of British. It is the fiefdom of Shariefs. It is the fiefdom of Bhuttos. It is home to Asma Jehangir, Pakistan's Gloria Steinem. It is home to Abdul Sattar Edhi, Pakistan's Mother Theresa. Its pleasure-house is in Heera Mandi. Its pleasure-house is in Napier Road. It has the grave of legendary courtesan Anarkali. It has the grave of legendary singer Noor Jehan. It is the film city. It is the port city. It has relics of the past. It has a promise of the future. It is Lahore. It is Karachi.
Lahore, Lahore Hai
Lahore. That is La Whore. That is Paris of the Orient.
John Milton praised it in Paradise Lost. Rudyard Kipling's opened Kim outside its old Ajaib Ghar (the museum). Bapsi Sidhwa began Cracking India in its Jail Road.
However, Kipling is not the only Nobel connection of the city. Nobel laureate Dr. Abdus Salam once taught Mathematics in its Government College. Nobel laureate Har Gobind Khorana once studied in its Punjab University.
Besides, history has been witness to its glittering grandeur. It was the capital of Akbar – the greatest Mughal emperor. It was the capital of Ranjit Singh – the greatest Sikh ruler.
It is also a gourmet jannat. Nihari is relished at Bhati Gate. Payas are ordered in Hira Mandi. Halwa Puri is devoured in Railway Road. Kheer is savored in Gawalamandi. Sheeshas are smoked in Cooco's Den.
To this day, it remains one of the most boisterous cities of the world. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had called its people 'Zinda Dillan-i-Punjab'. Muhammad Ali Jinnah had called it the 'Heart of Pakistan.'
Indeed, from Café Zouk to Crow Eaters' Cafe, from Tollington Market to Liberty Market, from Mall Road to Alam Road, from Shahi Qila to Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore is Lahore.
But Karachi Karachi Hai
It was the city Pakistan's founder Muhamamd Ali Jinnah chose to live in after founding his nation. It was Quaid-e-Azam's birthplace and also his burial ground. It was the first capital of the Islamic republic.
It was the place where Alexander the Great set his camps. It was the place from where Muhammad Bin Qasim led his invading army into the heart of Hindustan. It was the magnet that attracted Indian Muslim refugees with dreams of a better future. It is the magnet that attracts people from all over Pakistan with dreams of a better future.
It is a city that had many firsts. British India's first telegraphic message was sent from here. British India's first tramway system was set up here. British India's first scheduled airline service was started from here.
Today, it is the New York of Pakistan – the Islamic republic's multi-ethnic melting pot with its multitudes of Muhajirs, Pakhtoons, Sindhis and Baluchis. It is the nation's commercial capital – its money bank with the largest stock exchange and the largest airport.
It has many centuries co-existing next to each other. Its waters are navigated by uniformed sailors as well as bare-chested fishermen. Its crowd is both cosmopolitan and tribal. It has the old-world Saddar and the new-world Zamzama. It offers discounts in malls and bargains in bazaars.
It is really a city with two cities – beautiful and ugly. Beautiful Karachi - rich, sexy, fast, pulsating and dynamic. Ugly Karachi – poor, uncouth, violent, unplanned, and dangerous. It is the worst nightmare of Pakistan. It is the best hope of Pakistan.
Karachi Paindabad. Lahore Paindabad. Pakistan Paindabad.