Karachi over chai

Karachi over chai

Perched at the vantage point in front of the stock exchange, my days are spent serving tea to stockbrokers, businesspersons and people who have their hands on the pulse of this thriving vibrating monster that is Karachi.

When I first came here from Mardan, I felt I had distanced myself from those back home just by the sheer volume of experiences I had in my first few days here.

I had the chance to explore this city and usually do it after my work. Where I come from it is not difficult to negotiate anything, but it is a major obstacle in this city. It’s full of people from all over the country and speaks a multitude of languages. In fact, sometimes I feel that Karachites have a language of their own and are more a country than a city. At least population wise if not area wise.

What I have also discovered is that the sea we all hear colourful stories about and want to be near so much is very overhyped. I went to sea view with a couple of friends and found the blackish sand from debris and plastic. I really don’t understand what the fuss about the sea was for.

The stock exchange though is a very interesting tourist spot. From the multitude that comes out of it breathing the air of success like they just inhaled pure oxygen in Hunza to the old Memon folk sitting at our dhabba betting on everything under the hot Karachi sun from the numberplate of the next car to cricket. I had always thought betting was something illegal and bad, but here it seems like a way of life and business for some people. I have even heard them placing bets on how long will I take to deliver the tea to their table.

Then there are the old bazaars of the city. I like old bazaars as they remind me of the places back home filled with things to get curious about. The Botulgali and Reshamgali, the Zainab market as well as the Bolton market, Eid Gah and Kagazi bazaar are just some of the spots one can go to if they have a desire to buy something. What’s really funny though is that there is a certain type of people who never visit these places. The people here call them burgers and that is even more confusing because they are not someone you can eat or even eat with, as they tend to stay on one side of the bridge even though the other side is much less expensive. Some of these burgers also work in the stock exchange but never come to my workplace for chai but zoom off across the bridge in their fancy cars when the day’s work for them is done.

Then there are the rumours and the conspiracies going about all the time in Karachi. Back home, there was no such instance because activities were of a very small volume. Infact, I think everyone in Karachi has a connection to the power base of Pakistan, or they are all lying. Some people in this city lie for a living as well.

The best though is the time I get to spend at the jetty at night. The footpaths are sometimes lined with small carpets and men gambling on them. The harbour front and the busy cranes working all day and late in the night signify for me the real strength of this city. My dream, for now, is to open a small chai shop of my own and then make sure nobody brings the mobile phone in it so they can talk to one another. People tell me this used to happen once upon a time and I want to be part of that time.


The writer is a Karachi-based social media analyst/trainer and writer.