Do you know how many ways there are to die in this city?
1. The street food. 2. Minibus drivers. 3. Exhaust fumes from rickshaws, taxis, cars, buses.
When I was a little girl, Saturdays were reserved for halwa poori breakfasts with my cousins. My uncle would cram the twelve of us in his beat up corolla and drive us to the farthest point of the city where we’d sit on greasy tables, stray cats curled up at our feet, eating oily parathas and wiping our fingers on yesterday’s news—ten dead in Kashmir, 20 killed in suicide bombing.
4. A stray dog. 5. The woman with outstretched palms and a persistent cough. 6. When the tide hits.
One Saturday morning—my last Saturday in Karachi—I watched as a beggar boy was pushed on to the road. The fistful of balloons that had been so carefully wrapped around his wrist rose to the sky. The boy was bleeding. I waited. He wept as he watched his dreams float into vastness. One by one. The balloons vanished. I am still waiting.
7. A controlling husband. 8. The man eyeing you from across the street. 9. A stray bullet. 10. An aimed bullet.
The people of Karachi talk like they are stepping on land mines—careful, cautious, calculated thoughts and perfectly constructed half-truths. The children of Karachi dance among mountains of garbage and rubble—bare feet and cracked soles, gap-toothed, unapologetic, fluttering kameezes, flying (illegal) kites.
11. The wrong neighbourhood. 12. The right neighbourhood. 13. Being human. 14. 15. 16.
We have grown accustomed to the melody of gunshots, the rhythm of bombs falling, learned to block out the heaving of a city taking its final breaths. Poor Karachi, they say—it’s home, but I’d never dream of going back. Poor Karachi. All saltwater and crumbling buildings. All tireless smiles. A dying city, a blood-stained spot on the map. How can you save a city that refuses to save itself? Poor Karachi. Soon there will be nothing left to mourn.
Urooj is a 22 year-old storyteller, writer and struggling podcaster from Karachi, Pakistan, pursuing a B.A. in English from the Lahore University of Management Sciences. She began writing at 13, when she first had the misfortune of falling in love and getting her heart broken by cities instead of strangers. You can find her on instagram @loveletterstokhi, where she writes about home, her cat and as always, Karachi.