Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lahore & Karachi – A Tale of Two Cities

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.


Anonymous said...

nice observations!

Anonymous said...

We're two countries that spent most of our puberty in hating eachother because we in India would never trust a "muslim country" or you in Pakistan would never trust a "hindu majority" country!

India's real enemy is its corruption, not pakistan. India's real enemy is its stupid leadership. India's real devil is the kind of people that its society tends to create as leaders. These include M. Karunanidi, Bal Thankre, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nehru,Narendra Modi and the endless list of people ( each of them having millions of fanatical followers and yet great men like President. Kalam don't enjoy such admiration!!).

As bloggers and those that enjoy the internet at home or work, Satellite television, cell phones and cars / bikes mostly, I reckon our exposure to the systems that govern us on an average is alot lesser to that of the common man in both of our countries. Think about it...when was the last time you went to a government hospital or a government ration shop or a police station or an unemployment council? Have we guys a clue on what these common people are put thru? And the same perhaps holds good for pakistan. We have millions of people well below the poverty line. Millions of homes that are completely and willfully denied sanitation and quality healthcare with directed malice ( driven by discrimination and hatred or lack of accountability). Yet...we've allowed our politicians and armies to con the living day lights out of us. In the name of national security, theyve raped our tax money.

In india, it sometimes hurts to see just how ignorant most of us have become. All our traffic signals in major cities are filled with beggers. All our places of worship have endless hungry cats on the walls that could either become a hard working labourer ( a one in a ten chance) or for that matter a terrorist / robber/ murderer etc. and I really dont blame them!

So.....in the name of 'the being' that created all of us - be it Allah, Narayana, Jesus Christ, Budha and the endless faiths that are practised in each of our countries....JUST WHO THE FUCK IS OUR REAL ENEMY??????

Sriharish Padmanabhan

" Never impose your language on someone you wish to reach" - Anonymous.

karachi wali said...

mayank thankyou so much for writing this lovely analysis.
you are a true hero for what you are doing for the two countries!