Lights, bustling crowds and the smell of freshly fried sweets and pakoras. Together, they intertwine to create home, Karachi, the beautifully chaotic city where I spent my early years growing up.
In this city live the memories of my first day of school, the first time I learned how to walk or the first time I got a slap from my mother.
My feelings jumble together when I think about its noisy streets where people and cars make conversation with each other through their honks and yells. Getting stuck in a traffic jam means endless hours of shouting and impatience. Karachi is always roaring. No matter the time, it is always the loudest and proudest city in Pakistan.
During midday, the Karachi sun shines through the polluted, grey sky, lulling people to sleep. While the rest of the world waits for night to sleep, Karachi rests in the day and parties at night. In the afternoon, people awake to say “good morning” as shopkeepers open their shutters and restaurants begin cooking.
It is at night when Karachi is alive.
A metropolis filled with rickshaws and buses, the traffic flowing through the city like a bright river. Teenagers ride motorcycles and go on late-night trips to drink chai.
Women shop for silks and patterned kurtas, arguing with sellers for bargains. Wedding halls light up as relatives and friends laugh and greet the bride and groom.
The city looks like a set of a magnificent Bollywood film complete with color and noise.
Growing up in Karachi was beautiful. My childhood was better than I could have ever hoped.
I was luckier than the 2 million children in Pakistan who cannot afford to drink water or wear clean clothes
For those children, Karachi is not as beautiful. The women who shop in the markets sneer at them when they beg for money and the teenagers out on late night strolls laugh at their rags. They are known as the ‘Untouchables’. People spit, hate and frown upon them but barely do they ever care for them.
Those same people cage women and little girls in the confines of social norms. Women often don’t have the luxury to roam Karachi freely – especially at night. The men that the women bargain with for clothes are the same men who stare at them possessively or whistle at them out in the hectic streets.
I’ve roamed freely around Karachi with my mother, wearing considerably modest clothing. We walked through the streets with men staring at us hungrily. My skin crawls at the thought of their eyes on me, but this is something that little girls deal with from the age of 10.
This city is still plagued with the idea that women are only good for the kitchen.
There is no denying the problems with Karachi, but it is hard to let go of a place that you call home. I was born in Karachi in a hospital surrounded by my loved ones. The first breath I took was of the smog-filled Karachi air. I grew up in the dusty streets of my dad’s childhood home and uttered my first words in that city.
My love for Karachi is unconditional. Now living in Sydney, I hope to one day go back and help the city strive, to give back to the place that nurtured me into who I am today.
Aneeqa Khan is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.